The chief executive officer of the Fortis hospital chain has defended the amount of money that its Gurugram facility charged the parents of a seven-year-old dengue patient who died last year. The girl died in September after spending nearly two weeks on ventilator support, during which the hospital billed her parents more than Rs 15 lakh.
In an interview to Mint, Bhavdeep Singh said the hospital had used the “exactly right” number of gloves and syringes during the girl’s treatment. The fees were “consistent with what any private hospital would be charging for such services”, he added.
“There was something like 700 gloves used, the reality is the gloves that we used were exactly right,” Singh said. “If we had not used them, the headline would have been: ‘Fortis practices poor infection control practices’. The number of syringes used were exactly right. That’s what should have been done.”
Singh gave the example of parathas (flatbread), which he said are expensive at large hotels because “there is a value proposition”. “The building [at a large hotel] is nice, the staff is trained, the hygiene conditions...” Singh said. “[Similarly] when we come to Fortis or Max, Apollo, Medanta, Manipal, the amount of investment that a company makes to put the type of infrastructure that is there...it is quite substantial and significant.”
Singh also claimed that the hospital had conducted a detailed clinical investigation into the matter. He claimed the Haryana government had not found any evidence of medical negligence.
This was, however, refuted by Jayant Singh, the father of the girl who died. He called Bhavdeep Singh a liar. “The government committee report says there is medical negligence and the [government] had filed the FIR [for] death due to negligence,” he wrote on Twitter. He called the response comparing “healthcare to parathas” as “completely inhuman”.
In December 2017, a case was registered against the hospital days after a government panel found that gross negligence by the facility had caused the girl’s death. Fortis was charged with culpable homicide. The Haryana government had also asked authorities to cancel the hospital’s land lease.
During an investigation into alleged overcharging in the girl’s treatment, the three-member government panel found irregularities, unethical practices and violation of the protocol for diagnosis and medical duties.