CGHS subsidy cut a jolt to beneficiaries

R. Sujatha

They complain that rates quoted for Chennai are low

Until October 2003, they could have direct consultation in private hospitals

“No hospital worth its standards would agree to new rates”

CHENNAI: When V. Nagamani (67) arrived at the hospital for her usual kidney dialysis on Saturday the hospital authorities told her son to pay for it. The central government employee had no idea that the subsidy offered by the Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS) had been withdrawn. He paid the entire amount of Rs. 2,085 but was not sure how to take care of his dependant mother, who requires dialysis thrice a week.

The employee said: “Imagine the plight of the pensioners. Until recently, the CGHS rate was Rs. 1,000. But now it has been slashed to Rs. 960 and hospitals have refused to accept it. We had to pay the full amount.” S. Ramachandran (72) has been undergoing maintenance haemodialysis for five years. “I cannot undergo transplantation because of my age. Dialysis now costs Rs. 27,000 a month. In some of the smaller hospitals it costs less, but they do not have fulltime nephrologists and make do with partially trained technicians,” he said, adding that during dialysis the blood pressure may fall and lead to heart problems.

The CGHS has an approved panel of private hospitals for its beneficiaries. Until October 2003, beneficiaries were entitled to direct consultation in private hospitals and subsidised medical treatment in large corporate hospitals. Till last month, they could pay as per the 2002 rates, as the CGHS was reviewing its panel of hospitals. On October 1, with the expiry of the deadline, the beneficiaries have had to cope with huge medical bills.

“No hospital worth its standards would agree to the rates being quoted by CGHS now,” a beneficiary A.V. Venkataraman pointed out. He is also closely involved with the working of Public Health Centre in West Mambalam. “For consultation, it was Rs. 70 and now it is Rs. 30. Most hospitals are quite reluctant,” he said. “There has been a 40 per cent reduction for Chennai. For a [heart] bypass surgery it was Rs. 1.40 lakh earlier. Now it is Rs. 85,000,” said a senior employee at the Regional Meteorological Centre here. “Why should Chennai be quoted lower rates when Delhi and Mumbai and even Trivandrum have received a good hike. There are 60 dialysis patients in Chennai, what will they do?”

The average consultation rate in a medium-sized private hospital is Rs. 150 for the first time, pointed out pensioner V. Balaraman of Anna Nagar. “Anna Nagar and K.K. Nagar dispensaries now provide half the prescribed medicines on the spot and we return after three days to pick up the rest. The situation is better than some time ago when they had to buy medicines from outside.”

Doctors in these dispensaries refer patients to government hospitals in Kilpauk and Stanley or Government General Hospital, he said. When contacted, the Additional Director of CGHS in Chennai informed this reporter through his secretary that the matter had to be dealt with by the Delhi CGHS office.

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