Thiruvananthapuram

Public debate over curbs on subsidised care at SCTIMST

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Issue raised in Zero Hour at Parliament too

The possibility of affordable high-end care being inaccessible to the poor at Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology (SCTIMST) has emerged as a point of public debate as protests spill on to the streets and even in Parliament, where the issue was raised in the Zero Hour by one of the MPs from the State.

The fact that SCTIMST is starved of funds and that its parent department, the Department of Science and Technology (DST), has no more funds to offer to give concessions to patients has also come into sharp focus even as protests has been mounting over the institute’s decision to extend fully subsidised care to the destitute alone and limit subsidies to BPL at 30%.

SCTIMST claims that it was forced to streamline patient categories following an observation by the Comptroller and Auditor General that there was “inadequate internal control in the award of concessions to poor patients” and that “an objective, point-based socio-economic assessment based on evidence” was not in place.

Nine-point criteria

However, its detractors have been quick to point out that going by the new nine-point criteria for assessing BPL patients, none would get fully subsidised care and that 30% subsidy was too inadequate for the BPL category. SCTIMST’s delay in joining KASP, claiming that the treatment package rates would not be viable, has been another bone of contention because there are no other health finance assistance schemes for the poor.

Public health activists point out that SCTIMST should have joined KASP first and provided solid evidence to the State government on the revenue loss it was incurring and sought financial support, instead of refusing to empanel for the scheme and shut the last avenue of support for the poor.

“Our procedure rates are much lower than the charges elsewhere. But KASP rates are still 60% lower and would have brought us huge revenue losses. Institute governing body took a decision that without a written assurance from the State, it need not join KASP. SCTIMST has written to the Health Minister that it is eager to join KASP but that unless its deficit owing to the difference in procedure rates is compensated — assessed at ₹30 crore annually — the day-to-day functioning will be affected,” reliable sources at SCTIMST said.

At the heart of the matter is the fact that SCTIMST is the only science and technology institute with a hospital under the DST. Pumping in money to provide treatment concessions for the poor is not the mandate of DST, which has made it clear that the institute may continue offering subsidised care only if it can manage to raise sufficient revenue from its hospital services.

SCTIMST sources said that it had sought support from the Union Health Ministry, on several occasions but that it had not worked out.

Meanwhile, Health Minister K.K. Shylaja has expressed her protest at the new patient categorisation at SCTIMST and said that she would write to the Centre.

Public health activists have sought more transparency from SCTIMST regarding its financial woes and said that open discussions could help it secure more public support for lobbying with the Centre for more funds.

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Printable version | Dec 13, 2019 8:49:20 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Thiruvananthapuram/public-debate-over-curbs-on-subsidised-care-at-sctimst/article30153407.ece

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