Patients under 'free' health scheme still paying hospital bills

Though the state’s health ministry claims to have implemented the Rajiv Gandhi Jeevandayi Arogya Yojana (RGJAY) in Maharashtra, many patients who have enrolled under this scheme are yet to benefit from it.

Still waiting: Patients claim that they have to skip some of their dialysis sessions, as they are unable to afford the steep medical bills. A speedy implementation of the scheme would benefit them

Relatives of patients undergoing dialysis at Brahma Kumaris’ Global Hospital and Research Centre (BSES MG hospital) in Andheri have alleged that even after signing up for the scheme, they are being forced to pay regular charges to the hospital.

This has forced several patients to skip dialysis sessions to curtail costs, putting their lives at risk. Maharashtra government’s Rs 800 crore healthcare scheme became operational across the state since the month of July.

Families with an annual income less than Rs 1 lakh can register under this scheme, which covers 927 different medical procedures and allows any member of the registered family to avail the benefits. The initiative is meant to help poor patients with medical treatment upto Rs 1.5 lakh, free of cost.

But even though it was launched officially over a month ago, there seems to be a lack of clarity when it comes to implementing it at the hospital level. BSES MG hospital is one of the hospitals listed under RGJAY.

Patients who have been getting their dialysis done here for the past few years were relieved when the yojana was announced and implemented. Most of them hail from less privileged sections of society and find it difficult to pay their medical bills. So as soon as the yojana implemented, they enrolled themselves under it, only to realise that they were still coughing up regular charges.

Abdul Rahim, (names changed on request) has been receiving dialysis at BSES MG hospital for about eight years now and has been skipping several of his sessions every week, unable to bear the expenses. Abdul said, “I need about three sessions of dialysis every week, but for past few years I have been skipping about one session every week. Each session costs me around Rs 1,200 and three of them add up to Rs 3,600. My monthly income is meagre and can hardly support these bills. Thus I risk my life to reduce medical expenses.”

Prakash Shah, whose relative requires dialysis, said, “Doctors at the hospital have warned me about skipping my kin’s dialysis sessions, but I am helpless. After enrolling with the yojana, I expected that I would have to spend less, but the management has been delaying the implementation. Around 35 patients have enrolled under this yojana in this hospital and all of us are suffering due to the delay in implementation.”

The other side
M Kashinath, head of the Cardiac Centre and acting in-charge of RGJAY at the hospital, said, “We have been gradually receiving sets of documents related to the yojana from the government. Several sections in this yojana are completely ambiguous and several details have not been mentioned. We are continuously seeking clarity from the government and until that is received, we cannot sign the agreement.

I have personally met the relatives of the patients and explained the situation to them. We look forward to clarifying our doubts and then implementing this yojana as soon as possible.”

Dr Sameer V Kodkani, chief administrator (Medical) for BSES MG hospital, said, “The yojana lacks in clarity on several stages of medical procedures and these are genuine problems. We are a spiritual as well as a public welfare oriented hospital and hence we are eager to implement this yojana. When it comes to quality and cleanliness, we cannot compromise on these factors.” 

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