Kolkata hospital fined Rs50,000 for overbilling, refusal to release body

The West Bengal Clinical Establishment Regulatory Commission on Friday penalised the Rabindranath Tagore International Institute of Cardiac Sciences Rs50,000 for overcharging and delaying handing over a body to a patients' relatives by over three hours.

The hospital has been held guilty of not releasing the body of Haripada Mahanti, 78, until his wife Namita paid Rs8,023 over and above the sanctioned cashless insurance. Mahanti, from Contai in East Midnapore, had been hospitalised on 1 July. He died the next day.

"Not only the extra charge was imposed ... but by delaying release of the body for more than three hours, the clinical establishment has indulged in unethical trade practice," the commission ruled.

The hospital issued a statement saying it is ''not in agreement'' with the order and may take legal steps.

According to the newly enacted state clinical establishment laws, any delay in releasing body of a patient due to billing or other issues, including inability to pay the treatment cost, is strictly not permissible.

The commission held this case amounts to irrational and unethical trade practice. Any establishment found in the wrong will be liable to pay compensation, it said.

The commission, however, dropped all charges levelled against the attending doctor and the nursing and other staff for negligence.

Haripada Mahanti, 78, was admitted at the private hospital off EM Bypass in Kolkata on 30 June afternoon and diagnosed with hypertension, ischaemic heart disease and atrophied left arm. He was declared clinically dead on 2 July after a cardiac arrest.

According to Namita, his wife, the hospital refused to release the body till a portion of the medical bill was paid on 3 July.

The complaint says Haripada was covered under medical insurance. Against a total bill of Rs31,038, the insurance company approved only Rs25,208, with the patient's family having to pay the remaining Rs6,076. After a Rs 1,179 waiver, the net payable was only Rs4,897. But Only ofter Rs8,023 was paid nearly 36 hours after death, was the body released.

The commision rebuked the clinical establishment for the ''utterly inhuman, unethical and irrational'' act of not releasing the body.