Kozhikode, Jul 18: Even as the Central Government talk big on the welfare of the Defence Personnel and earmark huge amounts for this, it appears that the ex-servicemen and their kith and kin were facing severe problems in Kerala as many a hospitals had terminated the Ex-Servicemen Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS).
The most badly affected ones are the terminally ill and those who needed continued medical treatment, who had been enjoying the benefits of the ECHS, till recently. However, many a hospital, the multi-specialty hospitals in particular, across the State had since stopped catering to the scheme beneficiaries as the volume of reimbursement from the Government had been piling up and uncleared bills crossing crores of rupees.
Launched by BJP-NDA Government in April 2003, ECHS provides quality healthcare to over 54 lakh ex-servicemen pensioners, their dependents and a few other categories. It was early this year that the Government had extended the facilities to World War-II Veterans, Emergency Commissioned Officers (ECOs), Short Service Commissioned Officers (SSCOs) and pre-mature retirees, catering to over 43000 more under the scheme.
The ECHS facilities is being provided through a network of over 425 ECHS polyclinics, over 2500-odd empanelled private hospitals and all Government hospitals throughout the country, subject to conditions.But things appear to be taking a U-turn as most of the hospitals in Kerala has already stopped the scheme and has started charging for treatment.
“I am a widow of an ex-serviceman. As a chronic kidney patient, I have been undergoing dialysis thrice a week. Thanks to the ECHS, I could continue the treatment for the past few years. But, now, I have no other choice but to discontinue the same, as the weekly bill is over Rs 10,000, which I am not in a position to continue for long”, said Asha Swaminathan in Tripunithura who had been enjoying free-of-cost dialysis at Aster MIMS and Lakeshore Hospital till last month.
When contacted, a couple of hospitals, who requested anonymity said they are ready to continue with the scheme, provided the Government clear the pending bills. “I wonder why the Government is shying away from reimbursing us. There are very many healthcare schemes being implemented throughout the country and its unfortunate that we had to terminate ECHS for want of funds from Government”, commented a Hospital Manager.
The treatment to terminally ill patients feels that this could be fatal as they no longer would be able to continue with the paid treatment. “We don’t have ECHS but were having Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) but had discontinued since no reimbursement is released. In fact, there is yet another one by the State Government named “Karunya” which is also not being catered for same reason”, said P Padmaprabha, Marketing Manager, Malabar Medical College in Ulleyeri near here.RSBY is a government-run health insurance programme for the Indian poor. The scheme aims to provide health insurance coverage to the unrecognised sector workers belonging to the BPL category and their family members shall be beneficiaries under this scheme. But, for now neither the Central Government medical schemes nor the State Government sponsored Healthcare schemes are in place for the beneficiaries to bank upon, making the medical needs of the terminally ill patients critical and fatal, if this situation continues.