No room for the poor

No room for the poor

Hospitals did not admit BPL patients for 9 months

Virendra Saran from Nangloi suffers from acute respiratory disorder. Visits to a dispensary near his house have not helped; he is still unable to breathe properly.

He tried to get admitted at a private hospital under Economically Weaker Section (EWS) quota, but was denied entry because he did not have the required documents.

Saran came as a construction labourer from Bihar. He neither has a Below Poverty Line (BPL) card from the Delhi government nor a salary slip to prove that he earns less than Rs 6,084 per month — the minimum wage for unskilled labour in Delhi.

As per the guidelines issued by the Delhi High Court, 37 hospitals in the city that received subsidised land from the government are mandated to provide 10 per cent beds and 25 per cent Out Patient Department (OPD) facilities to EWS patients.

The order also stated that admission to the hospital cannot be denied on the basis of unavailability of documents.

But Saran was not admitted. He has not been able to work for the last two months because working as a construction labourer hurts his lungs further.

A study by NGO SAMA in October revealed that two of nine private hospitals in the city did not use EWS quota for the last nine months.

Hardly any hospital fulfilled the full quota condition. The hospitals have violated several laws, as the HC directive clarifies that “Patients will not incur any cost during the entire treatment at the hospital”.

However, most hospitals provide only consultation and beds for free. Costs of medicine and food, among others, have to be borne by patients.

“Such cases just show the apathy of the state, which has no redressal mechanism to deal with the problem. The only legal route available for these patients is highly cumbersome,” said Preeti Nayak, lead investigator of the study by SAMA.

No respite to patients

Even with financial help from the state, EWS patients have no respite.
Rehana (name changed) admitted her husband to All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), where he was diagnosed with renal cancer. With the intervention of the Medical Social Services Officer’s office, she was given Rs 4 lakh for the treatment from the funds earmarked for such patients at AIIMS.

“It will take a month or two to get the money, and then there will be a waiting period at the hospital. The problem is to keep my husband alive till then,” said she.

Rehana’s husband will have to go through dialysis twice or thrice a week till his kidney transplant.

As AIIMS has long queues, he will have to be taken to a private facility that costs Rs 2,000 to Rs 2,500 per visit. This is a lot of money for a BPL family to pay.

Hospitals flout norms

Despite several calls from the MSSO office, no private hospital, including the known ones, admitted him under the EWS category, even though Rehana can produce a BPL card as proof of poverty.

“Our study clearly shows that most of the provisions at private hospitals are ad-hoc, and hospitals have developed their own mechanisms of judging who to admit. It should be acknowledged that some financial help is provided by the state.

“But the process has to be expedited, especially in cases where the condition of the patient may deteriorate fast. Even if a provision exists, its implementation has to be looked into as well,” said Nayak.

It remains to be seen whether relief comes soon.

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