In a bid to privatize public healthcare services, Tripura BJP-IPFT government has revised tariff rates of different services under the Department of Health and Family Welfare including Intensive Care Unit (ICU), cabin charges, oxygen cylinders, diagnoses and diet. Most of these services were previously free.
According to Notification No. F.1 (28)-DHS/GS/18 issued by Department of Health and Family Welfare on September 06, the revised tariff rates would need APL and Priority Group consumers to pay Rs. 20 and Rs. 10 for registration in Out Patient Department (OPD) and Rs. 30 and Rs. 20 for admission in hospital beds respectively.
The notification also prices ICU beds at Rs. 300 for Antodaya Annapurna Yojana (AAY) beneficiaries, Rs. 300 for Priority Group consumers and at Rs. 600 for people above the poverty level per day. AC cabins in public hospitals would be charged at Rs. 700 daily.
All medicines provided in the government hospitals would be provided for free to all patients but based on availability. Hospital diet, which was provided free to all patients and relatives till now, would be charged at Rs. 50 per day for APL consumers.
Similarly, different diagnostic tests, bio-chemistry, pathology, micro-pathology, radio-diagnosis and other medical investigations would be charged at par with Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS) rates for APL consumers and 50 percent of CGHS rates for those under Priority Group.
The notification goes on to add that cancer treatment for APL consumers at Regional Cancer Center in Agartala would be charged at par with CGHS rates.
Opposition Congress and CPI (M) has severely criticized the government move and has termed it ‘ill-conceived’ and ‘anti-people’.
In a letter to Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb, who also holds the health portfolio, former Chief Minister and Leader of Opposition Manik Sarkar wrote, “public healthcare in Tripura was nearly free since majority of people of this state were from poor and low income groups. Any welfare government is committed to stand beside such people and help them. But your government’s decision to roll back free services in public healthcare and force people to purchase healthcare from the government is injudicious and inhuman’.
Sarkar and his party, the CPI (M), demanded immediate rollback of the decision.
In a similar tune, the Congress party said the decision is ‘anti-human’ and announced a statewide movement across all 8 districts Monday.
“Congress will hold demonstration in all district headquarters on September 9 at 4 PM against the decision of the Govt of Tripura holding that all the patient of govt hospitals are required to pay huge amount of money for their treatment and also for other related services”, state Congress vice president Tapas Dey said.
Dey also said that as per revised tariff rates, several diagnostic tests will cost the same as charges of AIIMS and other premier healthcare institutions of the country.
Reacting to the issue, BJP spokesperson Dr. Ashok Sinha said, “This decision will not affect the poor. There are several benefits for them in place like the Ayushman Bharat scheme. The mentality of people that things are available for free in hospitals has to go”.
He reasoned that government could never turn a blind eye on genuine cases of poor patients and added that there were glaring examples of gross misuse of government hospital facilities, simply because they were free.
The Tripura Human Rights Organization (THRO) said the reforms would inflict immense plight for the poorer sections of society due to lack of treatment facilities in future.
The state government’s move to demand payment for critical healthcare has come as a major shock for people after the decision to hand over 20 government schools and Mid Day Meal management to private trusts two months ago.