KOLKATA: Desperate times require desperate measures. On Thursday, the family of a 35year-old dengue patient paid back a city private hospital in their own coins, literally.
On Wednesday, BP Poddar Hospital and Research Centre in New Alipore told Sukanta Chhaule's relatives to arrange Rs 40,000 for his discharge the next day . It set off panic at the Chhaules' Dasnagar home for they neither had cards nor enough cash in denominations other than Rs 500 and Rs 1000.They pleaded with the hospital to accept the old notes, but were refused. Their offer of a cheque was also turned down. The Chhaules then sent frantic messages over WhatsApp groups to friends, relatives and neighbours for loose change.The response was overwhelming. They were flooded with coins. By 3 am, they had collected the bill amount of Rs 40,000.On Thursday morning, they wrapped the coins in cellophane packets and bundled these inside a big jute bag and arrived at the hospital gate.
The stunned hospital authorities initially refused to accept the coins and asked for a demand draft. They relented when the family threatened to lodge a police complaint. Now, it was the hospital's turn to count the coins. It took six staff members three hours to do the job.Sukanta was released at 3 pm. Snehashish, the patient's brother, said: “We had ple aded with the hospital authorities to accept the old notes or a cheque. But they refused. So we thought about collecting the coins, which, we knew would be difficult but not impossible.“
The Chhaules were bowled over by the response to their WhatsApp appeal. “While many gave us all the coins they had at home, others handed us their children's piggy banks.We kept receiving the coins till midnight,“ said Tapas Ray , his brother-in-law. A dozen relatives and neighbours then pitched in to count the money till 3am.
“At 11am sharp, we reached the hospital gate. But the authorities said they wouldn't accept coins and demanded a bank draft instead. We stood firm and told them this was the only way we would pay since it was legitimate currency . An official was still adamant but relented when we threatened to take police help,“ said Snehashish.
A TV channel cameraman was allegedly roughed up by the hospital security guards while filming the counting of the coins. He was admitted to Medica Superspecialty Hospital with a head injury.
Several other private hospitals, however, showed a more patient-friendly face. Apollo Gleneagles, Fortis and Medica Superspecialty accepted cheques even at discharge. AMRI Hospitals accepted cheques as interim payment, but declined them at discharge. Fortis, too , accepted cheques while discharging patients. Many, including Fortis and AMRI, appointed executives to help families make payments.
TOI made several attempts to get in touch with BP Poddar hospital for its version of events, but the latter did not respond.