Binod Ojha served in the Defence forces for 15 years and is now retired and lives in Pune. On May 2, his wife suffered a paralytic attack in her legs and needed immediate hospitalisation. Having registered for the Government's Ex-Servicemen Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS) meant that Mrs Ojha could be admitted to any empanelled hospital and be treated at discounted rates and bills would be taken care of by the Defence Ministry (MoD).
But private hospitals in Pune have a rule now. They will not treat former personnel of the defence services if they wish to get treated under the ECHS.
The decision taken by hospitals means that Mr Ojha and over a lakh of ex-servicemen will now have to pay upfront only after which they will be treated. Hospitals say delays in settling dues running into crores of rupess from the MoD towards this cashless treatment has pushed major private hospitals in Pune to make this decision against treating patients under the scheme.
"I feel tortured by the ECHS, by the Defence Ministry's policy," said Mr Ojha.
Mr George Eapen, the CEO of one of Pune's biggest hospital Jehangir Hospital told NDTV that dues worth over Rs 4 crores are pending clearance from as far as 2010. Under the scheme, dues with hospitals have to be cleared by the ministry in 45 days. He, however, said that ex-servicemen and their families are being treated if they agree to pay the bills as per ECHS rate. "Private hospitals have taken up the issue so many times with the Defence authorities but nothing has worked out,'' added Mr Eapen.
Defence authorities in a statement say that hospitals do not want to take up a new and fast bill clearing system which the ECHS has adopted. This because the agency (Unit Trust of India) that will be handling their bills will be charging a 2 per cent surcharge and so the issue is being diverted.
Pune is home to at least 20,000 defence personnel besides being a hub for medical treatments and expectedly this decision is not going down too well with the retired defence personnel.