Thu, May 08, 2008
New Delhi: With the Sixth Pay Commission grouse still fresh, here is another grim reminder of the an initiative meant for the welfare of ex-servicemen virtually on the brink of a collapse.
Meet Col Jitendar Singh. He served the country with pride for decades, wearing his beloved olive greens, secure in the belief that he would be taken care of in his older days. But today, the critically ill Colonel is among India's two million ex-servicemen and their families have nowhere to go. With the ambitious Ex-Servicemen Contributory Health Scheme on the brink of collapse, their only hope is shattered.
“Gangrene had not set in then. It set after the delay from Apollo hospital’s end. And when we said we are ECHS members, they said we are now cut off from ECHS,” he said.
The reason for his agony is that leading hospitals have pulled out of the ECHS because of enormous outstanding payments. “Bills take ages to get cleared. This scheme will die its natural death,” says VP Operations, Fortis Hospital, Jasbir Grewal.
The Army itself admits that the health scheme needs life support. It acknowledges that routine bills take two to three months for clearance. Bills over Rs 5 lakh require Defence Ministry’s approval, which takes a minimum of 6 months. Only six lakh out of 20 lakh ex-servicemen have enlisted reflecting lack of confidence in the scheme.
The abysmally low payment rates of Central Government Health Scheme to which the scheme is tied rule out quality medical care. “Hospitals have always been loathe to accept these rates. I can’t understand why army cant have its own rates,” says former MD, ECHS, Maj. Gen. Kuldip Sindhu.
It's a "crying emergency" situation for ECHS. After 5 years of completion it was expected of the scheme to have over come the difficulties in its implementation but the disharmony between the hands holding the scheme together has only become more conspicuous over these years.
Special: Govt health scheme for ex-servicemen a dud
Comment: Has ECHS moved forward resolving the teething problems in the last one year? Certainly a big "NO". In fact the constraints are growing greater and efficiency and ESM satisfaction on rapid downslide. ECHS will ulitimately collapse under its own bureaucratic hurdles and cobweb of rules and regulations. The Polyclinic's notice boards are filled with chunk of Letters in English which is hardly read by any sane ESM and those not conversant with English are saved the agony of understanding them!