Kejriwal Government, LG Now Lock Horns Over Healthcare Scheme

LG Anil Baijal has demanded adding an income criteria to the scheme which proposes free tests, surgeries at private labs and hospitals for all in case of delay in government facilities.

New Delhi: Just a week after the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party took on the Delhi LG Anil Baijal for his objection to the doorstep delivery of services scheme, the party has now clashed with the Centre’s representative for objecting to its ‘Quality Health for All’ scheme. Under the scheme, it sought to provide free high-end diagnostic tests to all the citizens irrespective of their economic standing in case of delay in government facilities.

Addressing a press conference, Delhi health minister Satyendar Jain questioned the LG’s objections saying, “What is the need to fix income limit? When all people pay tax, then all people deserve free healthcare from state.”

Delving into the features of the proposed scheme and the LG’s objections, the minister that said if accepted, the objections “will render the whole scheme unworkable.” Further, he charged that as in the case of ‘doorstep delivery of services’ scheme, “objections raised by the LG in this scheme are also based on lack of knowledge of ground realities.”

Stating that the LG had also not discussed the issue with the elected chief minister or the concerned minister, Jain said: “If the hon’ble LG had discussed it with the CM or minister, most of his objections could have been removed, thus saving precious time in sending files up and down.”

The scheme was passed by the Delhi cabinet on December 12 and was subsequently sent to the LG for his approval. It had proposed that every person, irrespective of his income, who comes to any Delhi government hospital for treatment shall be eligible under this scheme if he is a resident of Delhi. However, the LG sent the file back to the Kejriwal government with his objections and a suggestion that an income criteria should be introduced for dispensing benefits under this scheme.

Scheme allowed diagnostic tests in 67 private labs, hospitals

Jain said that the AAP government had proposed that if a patient in any Delhi government hospital needs a diagnostic test, and if that hospital cannot perform the same for whatever reasons, then the patient can get that test done from any of 67 private labs/hospitals which have been empaneled for this purpose. The Delhi government would have borne the entire cost of the test and paid to that private hospital or lab.

The scheme also covered for inadequacies in the government hospital system by proposing that if a machine was not working or if a test facility was not available in a hospital, then the patient would not be asked to get it done from outside. “Often, people can’t afford expensive tests and face difficulties. Likewise, in some hospitals, there are long queues for a test on some machines, then a patient has to wait for long periods. This affects their treatment when diagnostic test results are not available on time. To overcome these difficulties, Delhi government has proposed this scheme,” the minister said.

Surgeries also covered at 44 private hospitals

Likewise, he said, due to high volume, patients requiring surgeries are often given a long waiting time in government hospitals. This also adversely affects the treatment of patients who need immediate surgeries. Therefore, under the scheme it had been proposed that if a surgery date was not given by a government hospital to a patient within a month, then he would be entitled to get it done from any of the 44 private hospitals empaneled for this purpose. Again, costs for the surgeries in private hospitals were to be borne by the government.

For this purpose, Delhi government had entered into agreements with several private labs and hospitals, which had been empaneled. These private labs and hospitals, the minister said, had agreed to charge either at CGHS rates or at fraction of CGHS rates – which already were 50% of normal rates.

‘Only poor come to government hospitals, rich go to private hospitals’

Charging that the LG was denying people a scheme which would benefit them immensely, the minister said Delhi government feels that introduction of income criteria is not required because in any case, only poor people come to government hospitals and as such there is automatic selection. “Rich and super rich, in any case, go to private hospitals. Any further verification of patients’ incomes will increase paper work and make implementation difficult,” he said.

Stating that the LG wants that an income criteria should be fixed for eligibility under this scheme, the minister said, “if that is done, then every patient would need an income certificate, which most people don’t have. So, a patient, who has been prescribed a diagnostic test, will first go to an SDM office to procure an income certificate.”

The government admitted that there was corruption in procuring certificates. “If you need any certificate on an emergency basis from SDM office, one knows that you would end up paying huge bribes. Secondly, false income certificates are available at a ‘cost’,” it said.

A Delhi government statement also said that if any income criteria was introduced then a “whole industry of touts would spring up to produce income certificates.” Also, it said, in many diseases, timely treatment is necessary. “Precious time would be wasted in obtaining income certificate, which could be fatal in some diseases or could lead to irreversible medical condition.”

The government also charged that the LG has “introduced serious obstacles in the already successfully running mohalla clinics and polyclinics.”

“Till now, all treatment including all medicines, tests and consultation was free for all patients, irrespective of income limit, in all mohalla clinics and polyclinics. Due to this and due to excellent environs at these centres, large number of middle-class people were also visiting these centres. However, now the LG wants income criteria to be introduced in mohalla clinics and polyclincs also for all tests,” it said.

Chief minister Kejriwal also tweeted that if the income criteria was introduced in the ‘Quality Health for All’ scheme, it would practically kill it and also the mohalla clinics and polyclinics.

Meanwhile, Delhi government spokesperson Nagendra Sharma tweeted that till November 30, 2017, more than 11,000 Delhi residents had got their high-end diagnostic radiological tests done in empaneled private labs on being referred from Delhi government health facilities under the scheme.

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