Too many calls for doctors on running trains from passengers who don’t really have serious medical needs have made Indian Railway revise the fee for medical service to Rs 100 from Rs 20 for the first time in three decades.
As the NDA government has opened up multiple avenues for receiving passenger feedback, including social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook in the past four years, the transporter’s doctors in zones and divisions have been busy. On an average now, railway doctors across India attend around 8,000 calls per month from passengers. But here’s the downside.
Most of the calls are turning out to be for non-serious reasons, a point flagged by the Indian Railway Medical Service corps in the deliberations leading to revision of the fee earlier this week.
There have been cases like a passenger on a Delhi-bound train from Amritsar calling for a doctor at three stations en route just to check his blood pressure since he forgot his hypertension medicines. “Nowadays all you have to do is just tweet to get a doctor to attend to you at your berth. It’s a service we would be happy to provide to people with genuine medical needs but in most of the cases they are just frivolous complaints,” said a senior Railway Ministry official of the Health Directorate.
What is not widely known is that as per the Indian Railway Medical Manual, if a railway doctor attends to a passenger, he is entitled to a fee of Rs 20 — a token sum fixed in 1989. Over the years, this fee was not revised and in most of the cases railway doctors do not even charge it. This money is earned by the attending doctor. If he gives any medicine, railway charges the actual price of the drugs and that goes towards commercial earnings of the local division.
However, when doctors attend to passengers in a train accident, such treatments are free of cost as per the manual. There are around 2,000 doctors in Railways with a vacancy of around 550.
As per the proposal that led to the revision, railways calculated inflation as per the consumer price index since 1989 and worked out a fee of Rs 505 per visit by a doctor. However, the Railway Board decided the fee should not be raised to such a level that poor people feel reluctant to call a doctor even if they need it.