LAHORE - Leading private hospitals are fleecing patients through unnecessary surgeries and laboratory tests and prolonged hospitalisation.

Working through agents in public sector hospitals and general practitioners in the close vicinity, these private healthcare centres are minting easy money through unfair tactics under the nose of highly paid but indifferent officials at Punjab Healthcare Commission.

As these hospitals need to give due share to the facilitators-agents in public sector hospitals and general practitioners- patients are charged extra amount for all healthcare facilities from private room rent and surgeon fee to charges for clinical tests, operation theater and nursing care.

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To give justification for expensive repeated clinical analysis and prolonged stay, hospital laboratories have set strict standards for normal values of blood tests, especially ESR that suggests level of infection.

“Normal values for almost all tests at laboratories of these hospitals are different from the ones in public sector and leading labs like Sir Agha Khan and Shaukat Khanum. As such results of samples analysed by labs of these hospitals will be different from Sir Agha Khan and Shaukat Khanum. The purpose of setting such strict standard is to show patients that their reports are not normal. It allows the doctors to get repeated tests and prolong stay of patients at expensive private rooms”, said a doctor working in Pathology Department of Mayo Hospital.

“As per the Lab at the private hospital, ESR value was 17. It was high as the Lab has set normal value at 0-15. After leaving the hospital, the same test was carried from Shaukat Khanum. The report suggests that the value was 17 and within normal limit of 0-20. The reason behind such strict normal value at the private hospital lab is to suggest the patient is carrying infection”, said Mr Raza who took her wife to a private hospital on canal bank road for treatment of accumulation of gas in abdomen.

“Normal deliveries are routine at public sector hospitals but rarity at these private healthcare centres. These centres resort to C-Section just for money without taking into account the impact on mothers. In most of the cases, mothers can’t feed infants that put them at risk of several diseases. People resorting to such unethical tactics deserve no leniency. It is unfortunate that healthcare commission is merely acting as silent spectator”, said a pediatrician performing duties at Jinnah Hospital.

“Extra ordinary rush of patients at public sector hospitals and long queues for surgeries and tests like Angiography, CT Scan and MRI are major causes of people approaching expensive private hospitals. Agents in the ranks of doctors and paramedics suggest perturbed people to take their loved ones to specific private hospitals for quality treatment from senior consultants. Similarly, hundreds of general practitioners are also part of this unethical referral system for monetary benefits”, said a senior consultant at Jinnah Hospital who wanted not to be quoted due to fear of this organized healthcare mafia. He quoted example of a resident of Johar Town who approached a leading private hospital on canal bank road where his wife was advised surgery for accumulation of gas due to constipation.

“Patient went to the private hospital on August 15. She was diagnosed with intestinal blockage. Doctors terrified the patient and her relatives that large intestine may explode if not operated immediately. Her husband deposited Rs50,000 in advance. Hospital carried out several blood tests and CT Scan. They were repeatedly asked about operation charges, which they did not reveal. Later, patient was shifted to operation theatre where hospital staff started preparing her for anesthesia. The patient husband was told to go to finance section for payment of dues. He was told that Rs2,50,000 will be operation charges other than room and clinical test. He was told to deposit Rs4,00,000 in cash. However, the family did not agree and they took out patient from operation theatre. Next day they arrived here (Jinnah Hospital) and were admitted in surgical ward 2. Consultants examined the patient. She was discharged after two days of treatment. No operation was carried out”, senior consultant narrated the story of Mr Raza.

When contacted, Raza narrated the story in own words.

“I refused to get my wife operated after knowing such a high cost. After heated arguments, the management discharged her but not before collecting around Rs50,000 for room rent, medicines and cost of clinical tests. Later she was brought to Jinnah Hospital where she stayed for two days. Only medication ended constipation. My decision of approaching Jinnah Hospital saved at least Rs5,00,000 and avoided 3-4 month long immobility of mother of three kids”, Raza said.