Monday, June 15, 2009

ECHS: Army freezes empanelment of Fortis at Chandigarh

Arun Sharma, Tribune News Service Chandigarh, June 8

An ex-serviceman while going through a notice informing them of de empanelment of Fortis hospital at ECHS centre, Sector 29, in Chandigarh on Monday. Tribune photo: Manoj Mahajan

In a significant development that could put hundreds of ex-servicemen patients, specially those suffering from heart ailments, in a spot, the Army authorities have put on hold the re-empanelment of Fortis Hospital while accusing it of “overcharging and harassing” Ex-servicemen Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS) beneficiaries.

While Fortis Hospital stopped the treatment of fresh referral cases after the expiry of the empanelment term on May 17, the Army authorities recently displayed notices at its Referral Centre at Sector 29, stating that until the issue of overcharging and harassment of beneficiaries was not resolved, the scheme would not be extended.

The notice states: “No referral is being given for Fortis Institute and Multi Speciality Hospital as agreement has not been signed for the reasons - (a) overcharging ECHC; (b) charging extra money from ECHS beneficiaries; and (c) making veterans run around to get referrals during emergencies”.

The Army authorities and the Fortis management refused to comment, but maintained that “efforts were on to resolve the issue”.

An Army spokesman said they had received several complaints from ECHS beneficiaries about the shabby treatment meted out to them. He said several complaints regarding overcharging had also been received.

However, the director of Fortis, Dr Ashish Banerjee, denied such incidents, maintaining that they were in contract with the ECHS since 2004 and since the same wasn’t renewed, they had stopped accepting new indoor patients. Another official of the hospital, on the condition of anonymity, claimed that the settlement of the outstanding payments of crores of rupees by the Army had become a bone of contention.

Claims and counterclaims notwithstanding, the impasse is going to cause suffering to patients, but the allegations of harassment are not unfounded. Readers would recall the incident where representatives of the ex-servicemen association of Chandigarh and Mohali had staged a dharna outside Fortis Hospital in May to seek the release of the body of a warrant officer.

While the ex-servicemen association and the family members of the deceased had accused the hospital of harassing them and not releasing the body, Fortis had denied the allegations and stated that the patient was not registered as member of the ECHS at the time of admission and the authorities were not ready to reimburse the expenses on his treatment.
ECHS: Army freezes empanelment of Fortis

Comment: Crores of Rupees are paid to the empaneled Hospitals which are only utilised by less than 1% ESM. Whereas funds transferred to empaneled Hospitals is in the range of over 50% of the allotted budget. There is a need to ensure that empaneled Hospitals do not eat up all the ECHS budgetry resources and 99% ESM left high and dry by the skewed expenditure analysis. The Popularity of the scheme is only about 40% implying only about 9 lakh ESM have found favour with ECHS. Great majority of about 15 lakh ESM who reside in villages have not found the ECHS favourable. We need to drastically prune the scheme and make it accessible to all ESM in a just and equitable manner.

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