Friday, 4 April 2014

Harbin hospital charges dead patient for drugs and tests

by Michael Woodhead
The relatives of a 41-year old woman who died of pneumonia at  Harbin University No 2 Hospital are seeking an explanation for why they have been billed for two days of drug treatment and tests after her death. 
The woman spent 13 days in the intensive care unit after she developed pneumonia and kidney failure in February.  She died on 24 February and the family received an initial bill of 197,000 yuan (US$32,000) for her treatment. However when they came to transfer her body to a funeral centre they received an additional bill of 22,000 yuan ($3500) for drug treatment. The family had no option to refuse as they had already paid a deposit of 250,000 yuan as guarantee, and the hospital refused to refund the difference. They listed the additional costs as being for injections, respiratory tests and blood and heart monitoring.
The family disputed the bill, with the older brother pointing out that his sister would not have needed any tests in the 48 hours after her death. However,  the hospital refused to deal with them, so they took their complaint to the local bulletin board of Tianya. Many other local people sympathised with them and told of similar complaints of overcharging by hospitals.
A reporter from the Legal Daily took up the case and brought in accountants to analyse the bills.  They found that the bills for the extra two days were similar in size to those of previous days but they were vague and did not accurately show what treatments and tests were given or at what time.  When approached by the Legal News, the hospital's accounts department said it would review the figures. It later came back and said that after reviewing the billing it found some uncertainties and it was willing refund the family 18,000 yuan.
Other online commenters pointed the the famous case at the Harbin hospital in 2005 when a patient hospitalised for 67 days received a bill for 5 million yuan.
A spokesman for the hospital refused to comment, and the hospital manager was repeatedly said to be in a meeting when reporters sought comment from him on the case.

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