With the Delhi government registering a sharp jump in the number of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) cases in the Capital, residents want the government to cap the cost of treatment in private hospitals and nursing homes, just like Maharashtra has.

The Delhi government had, on May 25, ordered 117 hospitals and nursing homes to reserve 20% of their beds for Covid-19 patients. As per the Delhi government order issued by Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), "These 117 private hospitals shall bill the Covid-19 patients as per their respective schedule of charges."

Citing the Maharashtra government's decision to cap treatment cost, civil society members and residents' welfare associations in Delhi are demanding similar action by the Delhi government.

The Maharashtra government's health department issued new guidelines on May 21 under which private hospitals have been allowed to charge up to ₹4,000 daily for the treatment of Covid-19 patients in a general ward, ₹7,000 in an intensive care unit (ICU) and ₹9,000 on a ventilator.

Earlier this month, members of Save Our City Campaign, an association of RWAs, federations and social activists, wrote to Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal requesting the government to standardise the cost of consumables, medicines and treatment.

Rajiv Kakria, the convenor of Save Our City campaign, said, "When the government has capped the cost of hotel rooms used for Covid-19 care and stopped schools from increasing the fees, why can't it do the same for private hospitals?"

He added, "These are testing times and the government should take measures to safeguard the interest of citizens. Like the Maharashtra government, Delhi government too should cap the cost of treatment for Covid-19 in private hospitals."

The cost of room charges should be decided as per the facility available at the hospitals. "The government can divide these hospitals into three-four categories as per the facilities available there. The cost of room rent, etc. can be fixed accordingly. But it is important that a decision in this regard be taken immediately, as the number of cases is increasing with each passing day," Atul Goyal, president of URJA, an association of RWAs in the city, said.

It is not just the cost of per day stay which the residents want the government to control, they say that hospitals shouldn't charge patients for the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits either. BS Vohra, the president of East Delhi RWAs joint front, said, "This is not the time for hospitals to make a profit. The PPE kits are for the safety of their staff. They shouldn't charge patients for them. We request the government to provide PPE kits to hospitals."

Dr Girish Tyagi, the president of Delhi Medical Association, said, "This is an emergency. The government should discuss with doctors and private hospitals and devise a formula for the cost of treatment in the private setup, which is agreeable to all."

When asked about the matter, a senior Delhi government official said, "There are 3,800 beds in government hospitals, of which one-third are occupied. The facility in government hospitals is free of cost. Moreover, we have passed an order today (May 29) wherein five hotels have been attached to five hospitals to increase the capacity and have capped the cost per day. Also, we have created isolation facilities in 10 hotels."

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