Government to rollback hike in medical charges; AIIMS looking for an alibi
By Deepak Kumar Rath
While filing this story we were informed by a reader that the AIIMS authorities were busy in removing about 50 odd wall posters, made of full-size xerox copies of the Organiser expose in our issue dated January 22, 2006 pasted all over the Institute by the protesting doctors as well as the patients. Our sales department confirmed that the AIIMS doctors picked up about 300 copies of this issue.
Health Minister Dr. Anbumani Ramadoss, under attack from various quarters, made a statement last week that the government was willing to review the hiked charges. However, he did not specify a time-frame. He is also silent about the allegation that as the president of AIIMS he lacked proper control over AIIMS affairs, particularly after his statement in Parliament that he did not start it (the process of fee hike). So who is to blame?
Meanwhile, trade unions, affiliated to various political parties, have opposed the hike in user-charges as being ?anti-people?. The Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) said, it was totally arbitrary and uncalled for. BMS maintained that the government-funded hospitals should not function as commercial centres, and that the poor and the middle-class patients should not be charged at all. BMS called for accountability in functioning of these hospitals and introduction of patient-friendly measures.
While the Minister listed out several innovations and new services for patients, the faculty members as well as the staff were bitter over the state of affairs. A senior faculty member said, ?The Minister has no time for the Institute. He is not even interested to know what is going on here.? A retiring faculty member said: ?We never saw a situation like this in the last 30 years.?
Sambhunath, a patient from Bihar, is angry. He said, it was a cruel decision; patients were not in a position to fight. He wondered, how much money the country lost for the likes of Quattrocchi!
It is understood that the AIIMS authorities have sent a reply to the NHRC, although the contents are not known. If the government or the NHRC does not take an early decision on rollback of the user-charges, the issue is likely to gather momentum during the Budget session of Parliament.