Patients are charged illegally at Max Super Speciality, says Dr Sarwal

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Dr Virender Sarwal

The Hush Post: Senior cardiac surgeon Dr Virendar Sarwal has parted ways with Max-Super Speciality Hospital, Mohali. This, after there were allegations that patients were charged illegally when they are referred from one department to another or from other hospitals to his department, as per Dr Sarwal.

“A cardiologist at Max asked for Rs 15,000 as referral money to be paid in cash to him if he sent me a patient for cardiac surgery. I refused. I don’t buy patients,” says Dr Sarwal, who was till recently the head of the department of Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery at the hospital.

He is the proprietor of Kanahiya Daya’s Sarwal Heart Surgery in Mohali and says Max had outsourced its department to him till services were terminated on April 20, 2018.

According to a report published in The Hindustan Times the hospital authorities allegedly charged another patient Rs 10,000 as “referral money.” Referral money is the commission a surgeon/doctor gets for referring a patient to another doctor.

In a statement, Munish Ojha, the head of public relations and branding, Max Hospital has reportedly said, “The doctor’s allegations are false and malicious. We have never asked any clinician at Max Healthcare to pay a fee to anybody to source patients. We believe such practices are unethical.”

Dr Sarwal said the authorities at Max terminated his services after he raised the issue at a meeting with officials on April 20.

The next day, he wrote to Sandeep Dogra, the senior vice-president and zonal head of operations of Max Hospital.

“Various issues involving unethical practices, violation of law and code of medical ethics devised by the Medical Council of India (MCI) were brought to your notice but were never taken seriously,” he said in the letter.

Dr Sarwal has alleged that doctors empanelled with the Ex-servicemen Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS) were also involved. He said the referral money was sought by the cardiologist for sending ECHS patients for cardiac surgeries. “A list of patients was sent to me and the money was to be given to ECHS doctors. I refused and reported about the issue to the authorities. However, no action was taken. Instead, the cardiologist stopped sending patients who needed surgeries to me.”

Dr Sarwal said he was even pressurised over email from the hospital’s marketing department to give it the referral money for patients referred by certain doctors. “The finance head started deducting referral money from my payout for that cardiologist and for peripheral physicians for referring four patients. I objected as it’s against the medical code of ethics and an act of corruption under the Indian Penal Code,” he said.

The matter reached the Mohali district court on May 5. The court stayed the termination order. The hospital authorities, meanwhile, moved the Punjab and Haryana high court, which ordered on Friday that: “A senior advocate for the appellant (Max hospital) has handed over a cheque for Rs 14,16,600 and the senior advocate of the petitioner has accepted the cheque.”

“The parties will mutually settle their account. It was agreed that the end of the relationship will be termed as mutual cancellation of contract and not termination,” the order said.

“The only sticking point that remains is that as per the respondent, there are some patients on whom he had operated who need to visit him for follow-up and his prayer is that he may be allowed to attend to them and for that may be given some space so that he can attend to his medical duty,” the high court order says.

The case has been adjourned to May 15 after the Max counsel said that the hospital would have no objection to this.

 

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