Pramod Acharya/ Centre for Investigative Journalism in Himal Khabarpatrika, 27 December-2 January
A year ago the Center for Investigative Journalism had carried out an investigation which exposed the trend of ambulance drivers being paid commission to bring patients to Kathmandu hospitals. New investigations reveal the malpractice is still rampant in the city, with most big name hospitals involved.
Ambulance drivers bringing patients to Kathmandu first phone hospital officials, and negotiate a price. If the patient is suffering from a critical ailment, and is likely to be admitted for a longer time, drivers receive higher commission.
Posing as an ambulance driver, this reporter spoke to officials of 10 different hospitals over phone to make a similar deal.
“Of course, we will pay you. That’s just how the times are,” said Sandip, an official at Blue Cross Hospital.
Shankar Lama of Kalanki-based City Center Hospital agreed to pay Rs 15,000 while Basanta Khadka of Vayodha Hospital promised a cut from the patient’s final bill.
Another well-reputed hospital, Norvic, was also found to be involved in this malpractice. The hospital’s deputy general manager Hanuman Golchha said he’d pay upto Rs 6,000 per patient (see conversation below).
Most negotiations, an ambulance driver informed, are done over the phone. Some wary officials, however, ask to meet in person.
Doctors were also found to have provided confidential information of patients to hospital officials before their negotiation with ambulance drivers.
Other hospitals that are guilty of this practice include International Friendship Children’s Hospital, Shivajyoti Hospital, Alka Hospital, Ganeshman Singh Hospital, Janamaitri Hospital and Hams Hospital.
In the past, some hospitals were known to present motorcycles as ‘bumper gifts’ to ambulance drivers who brought them many patients.
Meanwhile the Ministry of Health, Nepal Medical Council and the local administration continue to turn a blind eye to this misconduct in the medical sector.
A recorded phone conversation between the reporter and Hanuman Golchha, deputy general manager at Norvic Hospital.
Hanuman Golchha: Hello
Reporter: Is this Hanuman sir?
Golchha: Yes, speaking.
Reporter: Sir, it’s me. I had earlier called at the reception.
Golchha: Who is calling?
Reporter: I had called to say I am bringing a patient from Chitwan.
Golchha: Oh, okay.
Reporter: When I told the person I am bringing the patient to Norvic, and if there’s anything I can get in return, the person asked me to talk to you.
Golcha: So tell me what you want.
Reporter: Please arrange the expense for me.
Golchha: How much do you need, I’ll let others know.
Reporter: Hmm, the patient will most likely be put in ICU and be admitted for long.
Golchha: Okay, come here and we can discuss.
Reporter: How much will you give, sir?
Golchha: First come.
Reporter: Previously too I was promised something else and given another.
Golchha: I have never paid anyone till today.
Reporter: It was Ankit sir who paid me last time.
Golchha: How much did he promise, and how much did u get?
Reporter: I was paid only Rs 4,000.
Golchha: So how much do you want?
Reporter: I had earlier also asked for Rs 8,000.
Golchha: No, 8,000 is not possible. I can give you upto Rs 6,000.
Reporter: Can you please increase a little?
Golchha: You keep bringing and we can continue negotiating.
Reporter: Is it okay to meet you when I get there?
Golchha: Once the patient is admitted I will be immediately notified, and then I’ll inform the counter to pay you.
Reporter: Okay, then.