Is dengue treatment actually for free?


Sham dengue wards, step-motherly treatment, hardly-attentive paramedics and doctors hesitant to take in poor patients is what one encounters in many private hospitals, undermining the Punjab government’s efforts to ensure inexpensive dengue treatment at private health facilities. The owners of private hospitals, laboratories and clinics recently decried the involvement of police in ensuring minimal prices for the treatment of dengue patients. The government conceded to their demands and the private hospitals agreed upon reserving 20 percent of the total number of beds for free treatment of dengue patients and charging only Rs 90 for the CBC test at all laboratories. However, a survey conducted by Pakistan Today in different renowned private hospitals in Johar Town, Jail Road, Ferozepur Road and Gulberg revealed gross violations of the agreed upon terms in the treatment of dengue patients.
While many hospitals have extended free treatment facilities, some have set up “fake” free dengue wards, despite having displayed notifications of free diagnostic and treatment facilities at the hospital entrances and information counters. While patients complain of little attention from the staff and doctors, almost all hospitals are charging heavily from dengue patients with the daily room rent as high as Rs 10,000 and a mega platelet kit for 15,000. Mid City Hospital on Jail Road has reserved a five-bed free dengue ward for patients, however, there is not even a single patient admitted in the ward despite a number of dengue patients across the city. Those admitted in the dengue ward said they were paying Rs 18,00 for the bed and Rs 800 for nursing everyday. Upon asking, the on-duty doctor said that the free treatment facility had been suspended a couple of days ago and now only paying patients were being admitted. Moreover, the daily room charges range between Rs 6,000 and Rs 11,000 depending upon the normal, executive and VIP rooms. In Omar Hospital, a five-bed free dengue ward has been set up where free-of-cost treatment is being given to patients, while the room rent ranges between Rs 5,000 and 9,000, excluding charges for a doctor’s visit and medicines and lab tests.
Sources revealed that the National Hospital Defence had increased the rates during the outbreak of dengue to discourage hospital admissions. As per details, they are charging Rs 3,600 for a bed in the ward, while the room charges range between Rs 5,000 and 10,000. Hameed Latif Hospital is charging Rs 2,000 for a bed in the ward, while the room charges range from 5,000 to 10,000. Hameed Latif Hospital does not have a single free bed in the hospital for dengue patients. The hospital spokesperson, however said free treatment for dengue patients was being administered at their hospital near Kasur and not the one in Lahore.
Doctors’ Hospital charges Rs 5,000 for a bed in the ward, while the room fare starts at 7,000 per day. In Aadil Hospital Defence, free blood test facility has been extended, while an 18-bed “charity dengue ward” has been set up. Interestingly, a majority of the free beds in the ward are vacant just like the seats of doctors in the ward. “The doctor only came once and just administered a drip. Now there is no doctor in the entire ward. All patients are lying unattended,” a patient in the charity ward said.
Those in the paying category also complained of the apathy of the staff and doctors. “The doctor comes only once a day. Even the CBC reports are not reliable as we had to get it again from another laboratory,” a female attendant said, adding, “A senior government official once visited the ward and directed all dengue patients not to pay. However, they are charging Rs 2,000 per day from us, excluding medicines and we do not know about others.” A staffer, seeking anonymity, however revealed that the hospital administration was reluctant to take in patients in the charity ward, which was without air conditioning.
Fadil Sheikh, owner of a hospital said the number of patients in the ward was low because a lot of patients had been discharged after recovering. He said that free dengue treatment and CBC tests were available at his hospital. He added that private hospitals had to bear electricity charges, free testing charges, clinical treatment, besides paying taxes. “Patients come here on cars such as Mercedes and have a lot of money. They demand executive rooms and suites with LCDs, fridge, AC and sofas. We only provide them with what they demand and charge for it,” he said.