The scheme of offering free treatment to economically weak patients has cost Rs 120 crore from 2006 to December 2013 to offer treatment to 2.75 lakh patients at 50 hospitals in Pune region.
Shiv Kumar Dighe, who recently took charge as Joint Charity Commissioner, said there are complaints coming in of misuse of the Indigent Patient Fund (IPF) —- it caters to poor patients in need of urgent treatment at reputed hospitals —- by persons submitting fake income certificates.
He also expressed concern about limited awareness among the poor about the IPF.
“So many poor people are still deprived of treatment. I have called a meeting of revenue officers and the hospital association of Pune on July 19 to verify facts before issuing below poverty line (BPL) certificates,” the Joint Charity Commissioner told The Pune Newsline. The scheme had come after a directive from the Bombay High Court and is being implemented since September 2006. Hospitals are required to reserve 10 per cent beds for poor patients. In Pune, 56 charitable hospitals are required to display notice boards about patients treated under the scheme. While there are 35 complaints from patients regarding issues related to hospitalization from January to June, what has evoked concern is rise in persons submitting fake income certificates.
The Charity Commissioner’s office refrained from urging hospitals to admit more patients if they have exhausted the fund. “So far, we have not shifted any poor patient from one to the other hospital,” Dighe said.
When pointed out that Sahyadri hospital at Karve Road recently displayed a notice stating there would be no further intake of patients under the IPF scheme, the authorities immediately directed them to remove the board. Activist Mubin Khan told Pune Newsline that some patients from slums were caught unawares and had to run from pillar to post for medical help. Navnath Jagtap, Assistant Charity Commissioner said he instructed the hospital to remove the board immediately.
Hospitals need to set up a separate fund for the scheme, which is 2 per cent of the gross billing amount of the patients who pay.
“Our inspectors check all records and a monitoring committee meets regularly to act on complaints. At times most people make a beeline for hospitals like Inlaks and Budhrani, Ruby Hall Clinic, Sahyadri, KEM and others owing to which they exhaust the funds. Still, hospitals cannot display any board stating that patients will not be admitted under IPF,” Jagtap stressed.