When Binod Kumar Ojha, a former Petty Officer with the Indian Navy and a benefiter under Ex-Servicemen’s Contribution Health Scheme (ECHS), took his wife to Jehangir Hospital, little did he know that it would open a can of worms.
A large number of ECHS empanelled hospitals in the city – including majors like Jehangir hospital, Ruby Hall Clinic, Dinanath Mangeshkar Hospital, Inlaks and Budhrani Hospital – have stopped giving cashless treatment to ECHS patients over non-clearance of dues running into several crores.
As the blame game continues, those entitled to treatment under ECHS continue to suffer. Ojha (43) admitted Sarita following severe pain in her limbs. ECHS has a provision that in case of emergencies, the patient can be directly admitted to the empanelled hospital and avail of cashless treatment.
Ojha was in for a rude shock when hospital authorities asked him to deposit `10,000. Hospital authorities charged Ojha discounted rates under the ECHS scheme. Ojha said he learnt that over 10 ex-servicemen had already had to pay their medical bills in the last 45 days.
He said, “ECHS should have at least informed the rest about such an important development as it concerns thousands of ex-servicemen. Earlier, we could take medical help from Command Hospital, but since the launch of ECHS, we have lost that right too. How are retired servicemen supposed to pay such hefty bills?”
The problem faced by Ojha is now a common problem being faced by almost every ex-servicemen seeking treatment from the city based hospitals empanelled with ECHS. RTI activist Anoop Awasthi who is all set to file an RTI related to the details of outstanding amounts to be cleared by ECHS and reasons for the non-clearance said that it was sad to know that Government of India could afford a costly retirement home for the President but not take care of the health costs of ex-servicemen.
“The President, who is the Supreme Commander of Armed Forces, can be given a retirement home and afford to spend crores of rupees on it, but when it comes to the health of ex-servicemen and their relatives, the government doesn’t have money. It’s a shame for the entire country that the people who have served the country have to fight for their basic rights,” said Awasthi.
Meanwhile in a press release issued, Sainath Pradhan, the spokesperson of Jehangir Hospital said that that they have temporarily stopped credit facility to ECHS patients and until they are assured in writing about schedule of clearance of payment it is not possible to proceed. We are however giving them cash treatment facility at the same highly discounted rates that ECHS enjoys.
“There is a very substantial outstanding amount overdue by more than half a year. Despite frequent meetings, appeals and communication the outstanding stands non-cleared or blame is put on authorities at Delhi, saying local office has no control over Delhi. New terms and conditions were unilaterally introduced on the basis of which, payment was withheld, before they realized the impracticality and unfairness of these conditions and scrapped them. However, this has delayed payments even further. Now, a new system has been put in place, without our acceptance, which requires us give additional discount and to set up separate infrastructure and deal with a third party who will make the payments. We are concerned this may increase lead time further and end up costing us much more,” said Pradhan in the press release.
“We had several meetings with the local authorities over the clearance of the bills. They continue to put the blame on higher ups regarding the delay in clearance of bills. they have not even given us any assurance as to when the bills would be cleared. We have been sending the bills at regular intervals as prescribed by them along with reminders, but to no avail. How much long can we wait. All we could do to benefit the ex-servicemen is to give them discounted rate of treatment as was applicable under the ECHS scheme,” said Pradhan adding that their outstanding amounts runs over five crore.
Boni Bhote, CEO Ruby Hall Clinic, another hospital empanelled with ECHS said that they have also stopped the cashless facility to ex-servicemen under ECHS. “Our outsanding amount is around `40 lakh. In the past also we have stopped and then resumed the service several time due to non-clearance of dues. However this time we will not restart the service until given a written assurance regarding the clearance of bills in stipulated time.
“This is what they are doing to the soldiers and their relatives who have given their entire life for the service of the nation,” said Bhotle.
-via The Pioneer.