Mumbai: 'Free' medical aid comes at high cost for Bandra couple

Updated: Sep 16, 2019, 07:46 IST | Shailesh Bhatia

Despite availing benefits under Centre's welfare scheme, man shells out Rs 39,000 after his wife experiences complications post-childbirth

(From left) Nazmeen Sheikh, Tauseef Sheikh and their newborn daughter
(From left) Nazmeen Sheikh, Tauseef Sheikh and their newborn daughter

A Bandra East resident's harrowing experience has raised questions about the effective implementation of the Centre's welfare scheme — Janani Shishu Suraksha Karyakaram (JSSK) — launched in 2011 to provide free and cashless assistance to women for their delivery at public health institutions. However, Tauseef Sheikh, who earns Rs 9,000 per month, ended up shelling out Rs 39,000 from his own pocket after his wife experienced unexpected complications post-childbirth. Sheikh submitted a written complaint (mid-day has a copy) to the hospital on September 13, alleging that he had to run from pillar to post to arrange for money needed for the treatment of his wife. Nazmeen, 30, who was admitted to Bhabha Hospital in Bandra West under JSSK on August 29, started bleeding profusely after delivering the child.

"Around 7.30 pm, my wife gave birth to a baby girl, but was bleeding profusely and had to be shifted to an ICU. The doctors then informed me that she was in dire need of further tests, blood and platelets, for which I will have to make my own arrangements from a private blood bank. I was told that a credit note was to be issued subsequently, as the senior doctor was not available for approval at that moment," said Sheikh, an automobile delivery man. Sheikh, who lives at Bharat Nagar in Bandra West, said he had managed to collect around Rs 40,000 with the help of his friends and family.

Cash limit

"On the very first night, I ended up spending around Rs 26,650. The hospital was kind enough to provide blood worth nearly Rs 15,000 for free the next day. However, the hospital refused to reimburse the amount I had spent, saying that I had crossed the cash limit for the treatment," said Sheikh, who bore the cost of medicines and other supplies till Nazmeen was discharged on September 5. Commenting on the cash limit, Dr Jayant Khandare, deputy executive health officer, who overlooks the functioning of JSSK, said funds are regularly allocated as per the requirements of the government hospitals. "The spending of the funds is done directly by the hospital. There is no such thing as an upper limit for the medical treatment of the needy," he said. A senior doctor from Bhabha, on condition of anonymity, said Nazmeen suffered postpartum haemorrhage, and there could have been serious consequences if she wasn't treated on time. "She had symptoms of bleeding gums and breathlessness, even before the delivery, which soon worsened. Ideally, the hospital should have taken care of all the tests and blood requirement, but the husband had to rush to KEM and other hospitals. We do have a tie-up with a few private blood banks, where all transaction and payments are made digitally," he said.

'24x7 blood bank important'

Soheb Khan, a member of Dakshita Committee that volunteers at government hospitals, said the absence of a 24x7 blood bank is a major obstacle to meeting the objective of the scheme. Bhabha does not have a 24x7 blood bank, which forces visitors to seek help from private medical institutions, he added. "Sheikh was in tears when he approached me for help. A round-the-clock blood bank service along with a team of pathologists would ensure that poor patients save both time and money so that the welfare scheme meets its objective," said Khan. Bhabha Hospital Medical Superintendent Dr Pradeep Jadhav said he would have to get details of the patient before commenting. Appropriate action shall be taken in the matter if any shortcomings are found, he added.

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