PHIDIM, August 10
An elderly person was denied free treatment meant for senior citizens in Panchthar.
Ganga Maya Dhimal, 74, of Phidim municipality visited the district hospital after her arms ached continuously. As a senior citizen, she was expecting free treatment from the health facility, but was compelled to pay the bill soon after urine and blood tests.
Though the government has a provision of providing free treatment to citizens above 70 years in state-owned health facilities, Dhimal was compelled to pay Rs 450 for the initial test.
Dhimal’s is only a case in point. Hundreds of senior citizens who visit state hospitals expecting free treatment are forced to pay hospital charges.
The government is yet to implement the provision of free treatment for elderly, people from marginalised communities and jailbirds. Sources said the health facilities had no option but to charge the elderly due to the government’s failure to allocate budget under the heading.
“We had to halt free treatment as the government didn’t issue budget for the same last fiscal,” lamented Dr Pawanjung Raymajhi, Chief of District Health Office.
The elderly were deprived of the facility last fiscal as well due to budget crunch. “I have talked to the Secretary of the health ministry and director general of the Department of Health for the facility this fiscal,” said Raymajhi.
DHO is yet to launch the free treatment though one month of this fiscal has already passed.
District Hospital Ilam halted free treatment facility three months after the fiscal year started due to budget crunch last year. “We provided free services for the first three months, but when we demanded budget from DHO, we were denied it on the ground that DHO itself had not obtained it from the centre,” said Dr Raj Kumar Pokhrel, chief of the hospital.
“Various chemicals, tools, machinery, among other things, are required to run a hospital. How is it possible to provide free treatment when we don’t have the resources?” asked Pokhrel.
According to him, DHO was yet to pay Rs 3.5 lakh for the three months’ services. “But we managed the budget from Hospital Development Committee,” he said. Earlier, the government used to issue around three to four lakh rupees per year , however, the amount was not adequate for free services. At least six to seven lakh rupees is required for free services, claimed Pokhrel.
The provision of free treatment for those above 70 years, jailbirds, and people from marginalised communities is yet to be implemented due to budget crunch.
A version of this article appears in print on August 11, 2015 of The Himalayan Times.