ISLAMABAD - Owing to lack of priorities towards health sector by the government, private hospitals are seeking unfair advantage of their oligopoly to fleece the patients. TheNation found that patients in private hospitals were charged heavily for the treatment being provided to them. It is learnt that most of the doctors in the private hospitals are urging the patients to visit their private clinics. Ordinarily, the doctors are running their clinics in the hospitals. The heavy charges that patients are paying in the form of consultation fees in private hospitals cater the needs of doctor's clinics. The minimum consultation fees or examination fees in private hospitals range from Rs 600 to Rs 1,000, compared to very nominal charges in government hospitals. "Private hospitals charge too much in the name of providing quality treatment", said Syed Ali Raza Kazmi, who owns a tourist agency in Islamabad. A tentative estimate reveals that minimum room charges of private hospitals are around Rs 10,000 and that of VIP rooms are more than Rs 15,000. Similarly, patients in Intensive Care Units (ICUs) are heavily charged too. The dialysis and other tests are becoming simply unaffordable for middle class and even upper-middle class. Mostly, the governmental hospitals in Islamabad are overlapped with the patients, so people resort to private hospital for better treatment. "But these hospitals are availing unfair advantage of the helplessness of patients. The patients have no other option than to resort to private hospitals for treatment since government hospitals are already overlapped", said an official of a hospital seeking anonymity. Another fact that supports the deteriorating standards of hospitals deals with the lack of qualified paramedical staff. Sources mentioned that to save investment, the hospitals usually hire untrained nurses and clerical staff at very low wages. This results in poor quality of services being provided to the patients. As soon as the members of their paramedical staffs find another job they quit their jobs at these hospitals. It is observed that at night hours young graduates of medicine are appointed in the 'Emergency' to treat patients. The fresh medical graduates undergoing house jobs and even under graduate medical students are usually seen in the Emergency, assuming the responsibility of patient's treatment. This is an alarming situation and demands immediate action to be taken by the Health Ministry against the hospitals. Any manhandling of the patients by these inexperienced medical students can results in loss of precious lives. A senior bureaucrat told this correspondent that he took on the administration of a private hospital on account of its inefficiency and negligence, when his mother was hospitalized in that hospital a few years back. "My mother was admitted to a VIP room and bugs were found at her bedside and at sofas in the waiting lounge. Just imagine, they claim to run a hospital of international standards", he said. Another well-placed official of a hospital told this correspondent that charity foundations being sponsored by these hospitals are nothing but moneymaking tactics. These foundations have nothing to do with the charity work. Such foundations are formed to provide maximum exemption to the earnings of these hospitals from taxes. Ground realities reveal that there is no such concept as free treatment of patients under such charity foundations. Some patients being treated under one such foundation told TheNation that they are being charged by the hospital. "At one hand they are promoting their so-called charity foundation by massive advertisement, on the other hand they even charge for breathing", stated a patient. In addition to that, a patient revealed that when he was charged heavily by a private hospital for the treatment of asthma, he asked the administration to provide the details of his bills. The details of his bills revealed that he was charged even for very small and cheaper items like tissue papers, saniplast bandages and drinking water. "Why they are left unchecked by the concerned authorities. Ministry of Health should wake up and take notice of such a serious matter", he suggested. Also, the patients have reported about the indifferent attitude of the administration of almost all the hospitals in the capital. Often, the under privileged patients are made to wait outside the hospitals buildings in the lawns or even at roads. Whereas, the privileged patients enjoy exclusive rights at the cost of unaffordable expenditure. Moreover, several cases have been reported pertaining to the incidents that the hospitals refused to discharge the poor patients since they could not meet the high charges demanded by the hospitals. The patients and the officials stressed upon the Ministry of Health and the government to take stern notice of the discrimination and serious violations of law and health standards being made in those hospitals. "They should not be let free to fleece the patients the way the want to", suggested a patient who is paying heavy fees for his treatment.