The guy who cleans my car wanted to have a word with me this morning. He looked very worried.
” What is it?” I asked.
” Sir, can you tell me how much a CT scan costs?”
“Around 4000 to 5000 rupees,” I said. “Why, has someone asked you to get one done?”
” No Sir. My mother was admitted last night with vomiting and diarrhea. The doctors gave saline and medicines and told me to get a CT scan done. I got a bill today for 20000 rupees of which the scan alone is 15000 rupees.”
“15000 rupees for a scan!” I exclaimed. “That is three times the regular price! Why?”
” Don’t know Sir.”
” So did you pay the bill?”
” Yes Sir. Otherwise they were not going to discharge my mother today and would have charged me for an extra day in hospital.”
“So your mother is already discharged. Do you have the discharge card with you?”
The lady had received two bottles of intravenous glucose saline, antibiotic injections and an anti-emetic to stop the vomiting. Total cost would not have been more than 1000 rupees, inclusive of the overnight stay in the general ward.
This was shocking. The poor man earns no more than 8000 rupees in a month. His mother most probably had a mild form of gastroenteritis which responded to the medication. But why do a CT scan?
It is obvious that the hospital wanted to make a fast buck from this man. To cheat any incoming patient by performing unnecessary costly investigations has become the norm now and is assuming epidemic proportions. But to cheat a poor illiterate man not only by doing an unnecessary investigation but also charging three times the price is nothing short of criminal. This is what drives a third of Indians below the poverty line.
Unfortunately, hospitals and doctors have become so mercenary these days that medical ethics been thrown out of the window. You and I are helpless silent spectators to this grand looting and pillaging where men, women and children of all socioeconomic strata are plundered nationwide.