'BMC should treat locals for free, charge outsiders'

Taking a strong stance in favour of the son of the soil yet again, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) has demanded that Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC)-run hospitals treat taxpaying residents of Maharashtra free of cost, and compensate the losses so incurred by charging patients who come to Mumbai from other states for medical treatment.

A family at KEM hospital for treatment. File pic

Of its Rs 27,500 crore budget, the BMC’s health budget is over Rs 2,500 crore of which Rs 1,885 crore is spent on salaries of staff and the hospital administrations. Rs 623 crore has been earmarked for purchase of new machinery, as well as repair and reconstruction of hospitals. The BMC runs four major hospitals with medical colleges and 14 peripheral hospitals in the city. It also has under its wing 168 health posts, 162 dispensaries and 22 post partum centres.

MNS corporator Sandeep Deshpande who has demanded for free treatment for locals in BMC-run hospitals. File pic

While speaking on the budget, MNS corporator from Dadar (West) Sandeep Deshpande asked, “The BMC spends much more than it earns from this department, and who are all the beneficiaries?” He went on to demand that the BMC charge patients who come from different parts of the country for services, and use the money amassed to provide services free of cost to taxpayers of the city and residents of the state.

Responding to the contention that all migrants may not hail from wealthy families, he said, “In that case the concerned state government should bear the cost of their surgery or treatment and the BMC should also send the bills for the same to the patient’s state government. It will reduce the BMC’s burden and provide relief to taxpayers.” He said he would soon be writing a letter with the same suggestions to the municipal commissioner.

Other parties scoffed at the idea. Shiv Sena member Rahul Shewale, who is also a chairman of the civic standing committee, said, “To provide primary health service is the BMC’s obligatory duty, while running hospitals and medical colleges is the state government’s responsibility.

So the state should bear some part of the responsibility for health services and provide funds of at least Rs 1,500 crore every year.”
Samajwadi Party (SP) claimed that the byte was a publicity stunt. “It is BMC’s obligatory duty to provide primary health services to all Indian nationals. He should think of these kinds of ideas when his party comes to power in the state,” said Rais Shaikh, SP group leader of SP.

The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) too was unimpressed with the idea and branded it ‘childish.’ “No municipality can discriminate between citizens in any services. Though they are from other states, they are also Indian nationals and hospitals cannot charge different rates for Indians,” said Dhananjay Pisal, NCP group leader. 

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