Bombay Hospital, which has a capacity of more than 800 beds and is also a post-graduate teaching institute, was told its practice of overcharging on medicines sold to a patient while being treated at its main operation theatre was an unfair practice.
The South Mumbai District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum not only told the premier south Mumbai-based hospital to refund the 20% surcharge it levied on medicines sold to patient Usha Kedia for her orthopaedic surgery, but also granted Ms Kedia compensation for mental agony and cost of litigation.
Complainant Ms Kedia had a surgery performed on her on 25 September 2014, a day after she was admitted, and was discharged on 27 September 2014. The Consumer Forum delivered its order on 22 May 2019.
The total bill for Ms Kedia came to Rs2,10,627, which she paid, and submitted the same to the National Insurance Co Ltd. The company, however, reimbursed only Rs1,66,000 and declined to pay surcharge on medicines of Rs32,570. On other claims, the National Insurance Co also declined to pay Rs19,127 on expenses including pre and post-operative expenditure, and others including excess doctor fees, excess room rent, and other items.
In all, Ms Kedia was short by Rs51,697.
In case of Bombay Hospital, they had levied a 20% surcharge on medicines they procured for the main operation theatre, from a store set up nearby specifically to cater to the operation theatre. The Hospital cited cost of staff and other overheads among reasons for the surcharge. Its own main medicines outlet doesn’t impose any surcharge.
The Hospital went a step further, terming the complaint as an attempt to “tarnish the clean image and bring disrepute to its good name, and to extract money.” The complaint should be dismissed and costs recovered from the complainant, the Hospital contended in its defence.
The Consumer Forum dismissed the hospital’s contention. The Hospital has “miserably failed to justify that levy of surcharge as permitted by law and is illegitimate,” the Forum ruled.
Likewise, the insurance company couldn’t cite any law that enabled it not to reimburse the expenses it rejected.
The Forum, on its own, ordered that the complainant Ms Kedia be paid a compensation of Rs7,500 and costs of Rs5,000 each by hospital and the insurance company, totalling Rs25,000.
Since the case was filed on 21 December 2015, an interest of 9% per annum would be paid to Ms Kedia on Rs32,570 to be paid by Bombay Hospital and Rs19,127 by the insurance company.