Protests against user fee in govt hospitals

07 October 2009

The agitation against hike in service charges and introduction of new charges in government hospitals has been intensified with Dakshina Kannada District Head Load Worker''s Union joining the issue. The union members organized a protest in front of the District Government Wenlock Hospital here on Tuesday. Members of DYFI and other Left organizations had organized similar kind of agitation last week.

The union members gathered in front of the hospital and shouted slogans against the state government''s decision to introduce new fees at government hospitals. Addressing the protesters, union president Ivan D''Souza said a majority of the workers are in the unorganized sector and outside the purview of ESI facilities depend on government hospitals for treatment and the introduction of new fees has affected them badly.

He alleged that this move would pave way for gradual privatization of public hospitals. Fees have been fixed for different wards on lines of system followed in private hospitals. Accordingly, patients have to pay Rs 30 for general ward, Rs 115 for semi-special and Rs 170 for special wards.

Critically injured patients have to shell out Rs 550 per day for ICU, Rs 350 for dialysis, Rs 200 for medical leave, physical fitness and MLC certificates and disability certificate and Rs 100 for rabies injection. Other fees include Rs 10 per kilometre for ambulance services, Rs 200 for a copy of post-mortem report, Rs 50 for extract of records, Rs 2,000 for training fee for house surgeons and paramedical staff, and Rs 10 for out patient slip.

Referring to the government order, which prescribes that Rs 250, should be charged for disposal of unclaimed bodies, Ivan wondered who should pay this fee. For surgery the government has fixed a fee ranging from Rs 2,000 to Rs 5,000. But in certain cases the heads of the department concerned have been given a free hand to fix the fees. This kind of arrangement may lead to swindling patients, he said. Condemning the government''''s move, Ivan said the district hospital was not like other government hospitals in the state.

The Arogya Suraksha Samithi that administers the hospital has an annual income of Rs 1.5 crore. Besides, the hospital has tie-ups with various private medical and nursing institutes for using their clinical facilities. This tie-up help the hospital earn additional income. District in-charge minister Palemar said the government order was applicable for all government hospitals and not restricted to Wenlock Hospital alone. Observing that majority of the patients at Wenlock Hospital were from Kerala, he said people of the state can avail free treatment at the hospital by producing BPL ration cards issued to them. The government will take steps to protect the interest of the poorer sections of society without burdening them, he said.



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