Can the Common Man Even Afford Covid-19 Care? In Pune, ₹8,000 for a 7km Ambulance Trip


Can the Common Man Even Afford Covid-19 Care? In Pune, ₹8,000 for a 7km Ambulance Trip

Illustration: Mitesh Parmar

The coronavirus pandemic is characterised by uncertainty. As a new disease, even experts are not yet fully in agreement over how to best treat and cure Covid-19. In India, there is widespread confusion over the cost of the treatment, and how accessible it is to seek hospital care. Against this backdrop, news of an ambulance operator in Pune fleecing a Covid patient by charging ₹8,000 for a short seven-kilometre trip emerges as the most recent example of this sorry state of affairs.

One Wednesday, July 8, district administration authorities in Pune filed a case against the ambulance service provider for overcharging for their services. The charge of ₹8,000 was raised on 25 June, when the ambulance operator was tasked with transporting a coronavirus patient from a hospital to a nearby Covid care centre. The local Regional Transport Office also seized the vehicle used that day.

Ambulance charges have been fluctuating wildly in other cities too. A report in The Week found that some hospitals in Mumbai were charging as much as ₹10,000 for ambulance journeys as short as three kilometres. In addition to the high cost of ambulance transportation, the cost of rooms in Mumbai’s private hospitals can easily go into lakhs of rupees for multi-day hospitalisation. This includes not just hospital stay, but also the cost of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and other hidden costs.

With no definite cure for Covid-19, even the drugs used to treat the disease are growing increasingly expensive. Remdesivir and Hydroxychloroquine have been bought by a paranoid populace, leading to a shortage that is artificially driving up the prices of these drugs.

As India’s number of Covid positive cases continues to grow, there are fears that proper treatment might be beyond the means of many Indians.