The All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) is set to revise beneficiaries under its Adopt a Patient programme, which was started four months ago to fund surgeries and implants for targeted poor patients whose condition is severe. The programme, however, has little success to show.
Donations have been coming in slow, said Dr. Deepak Agrawal, head of hospital’s IT department. We developed the programme on our own within the institution so it lacks some of the push that government schemes may have such as tax benefits and publicity.
While donating to AIIMS under the Poor Fund Account is tax deductible, the Adopt a Patient programme is not.
The Adopt a Patient programme is targeted and fully transparent, said Dr. Agrawal. We target patients whose conditions are severe and do not have the means to raise the funds themselves. The Poor Fund Account is, comparatively, more general, serving the medical expenses of all those who come to AIIMS for treatment, which is around 10,000 per day.
Till date, seven patients, based on their financial standing and extent of injury, qualified for the programme. None have yet been fully funded by the programme. We also keep the list of beneficiaries short so that the money is spread over many patients, said Dr. Agrawal.
Dinesh Singh (18), from Rampur in Uttar Pradesh, about a six-hour journey from New Delhi, was admitted to AIIMS Trauma Center in early August after an accident left him paralysed neck down. According to AIIMS, he requires a device to stimulate his phrenic nerve that would allow him to breathe normally. This procedure will require around Rs 6 lakh. An account was opened under the programme in the hospital. Till date, he has received just over 30 per cent of the required funds.
The other patients on the list have either been discharged or, in at least one case, died.
The money donated to a patient through the programme would remain under his or her name at the AIIMS hospital, to be used whenever necessary for treatment. But the patients and their families are unaware that they are on the list. At times, even doctors treating the patient are in the dark too.
I got to know of this only when you told me, said Inder Singh, Dinesh’s elder brother to The Indian Express. The hospital supplied some of the medicines but I had to buy the rest from outside, then I had to bring Dinesh from Rampur in an ambulance for every follow-up visit, which costs around Rs 4,000. All these cost us a lot. And if such a programme exists and we are supposed to benefit from it, well, we are not.
The family of Sharmila Mondal, a patient who requires a renal transplant and is on the list, too said they had not heard of the programme. Both families said they had to buy medicines from outside AIIMS, which they paid for their own pockets. They often have to bring the patients back to the hospital if their condition deteriorates another costly affair.
We don’t advertise the programme with the patients relatives. We wanted to avoid a situation where it may be misused or they come to claim it without realising that the amount is meant for the patient’s treatment only in this hospital, said Dr. Agrawal.
What is the point then asked Indrapal. We can’t stay in the hospital for too long as they say they have limited number of beds and patients from all over the country are coming to the Center. We were asked to discharge him as there was nothing more they could do for him. Now we have to take him home, buy medicines and then come back again for the review.
The whole point was to give the patients families relief really. We don’t want them tethered to the hospital bed. This is a very transparent programme. We are open to any idea that will help increase visibility, said Dr. Agrawal. A way ahead would be to tie-up with different platforms to increase visibility. However, for AIIMS will require to issue tenders for that and it could be a long drawn out process. The corporate social responsibility (CSR) avenue would be great if companies approached us.
But for Indrapal and his family, the cost of keeping Dinesh alive is increasing.