Victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy have welcomed the Supreme Court’s directive to the Union and Madhya Pradesh governments on providing access to better healthcare to them.

“The court’s directive to provide health booklets and smart cards to victims is something that most of us here need,” said Hamida Bi.

According to Hamida, neither the Bhopal Memorial Hospital and Research Centre (BMHRC) nor the State government’s Gas Relief hospital maintained a record of her illness.

“That deprived me of the higher monetary compensation I required as I couldn’t show any medical record of my illness,” she said.

Victims complained that the medical staff of neither hospital took interest in the victims and, were keener on serving other patients.

Abdul Aziz, who continues to live with a chronic respiratory complication following the tragedy, has often been at the receiving end.

“At one point, they just told me to stop visiting the hospital and survive by taking pills for the rest of my life,” he said.

To patients like Hamida and Aziz, a health book, a smart card and a computerisation of medical records will automatically mean improved access to healthcare.

“There are certain things that are needed the most at this point — health books to victims, adequate medicines and equipment and more doctors in the hospitals,” Abdul Jabbar, convener of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sangathan and one of the petitioners in the current case, said.

There are others who hope the pathology labs of the specialised hospitals, will get better facilities following the Supreme Court order.

The BMHRC, a 350-bed multi-specialty tertiary care centre specially set up for gas victims, refuses more than 8 dialyses to patients with Total Renal Failure (TRF) and is not equipped to perform a kidney transplant operation.

“The BMHRC is of no use to us. We need dialysis twice every week but they refuse it to us after the first eight times [a month] as they are busy fulfilling their commitments to other private patients,” said Aqeel, a TRF patient who claims he contracted hepatitis from the infected needle of the dialysis machine.

This means most TRF patients have to undergo dialysis at private clinics and laboratories, which have mushroomed in the older part of the city. At these private clinics, one session of dialysis costs them about Rs.1500-Rs. 2000.

“It is the devil or the deep blue sea for us. Even if we somehow manage to pay for the expensive dialysis treatment at a private clinic, it’s not the end of our troubles. My wife contracted Hepatitis after a dialysis done at a private clinic,” said Nandkishore Sahu.