The Vajpayee Arogyashree scheme (VAS) was introduced in Karnataka with the ambitious aim of improving healthcare in the rural sector. The scheme is an initiative to provide latest and free medical treatment to the poor. Enrolled BPL beneficiary can go to a network hospital and obtain treatment without making any payment to the hospital for procedures provided under the scheme. Under this scheme the Karnataka government would settle the claim within 21 days of receiving the claims from the network hospital. This was more than five years ago.

 

Currently, private hospitals in Bengaluru have refused to admit anymore BPL (below poverty line) patients. Some of them stopped accepting such patients last year itself because of the outstanding dues. The hospitals say that until they get the dues owed to them by the Suvarna Arogya Suraksha Trust (SAST), formed by the Karnataka government for this initiative, they will keep turning away these patients.

 

However, the hospitals have maintained that "No emergency cases or children requiring treatment are being refused help. All fresh cases other than these are not being entertained.”

 

 

An article in The New Indian Express listed the amount that was owed by the government. After the initial release of ₹34.25 crore (₹28.14 crore to private and ₹6.11 crore to government hospitals), the government still owes ₹86.71 crore to hospitals (₹60.64 crore to private and ₹26.07 crore to government facilities).

 

So now who will be the sufferers? It will be the patients and to stress the impact of this move – it will be the poor who will be at a disadvantage. All because the Karnataka state government was lax in paying a dues of ₹86.71 crore.

 

It would a complete untruth if the government were to say there was no money in their trust to spend on BPL patients. If that is the case then why start the scheme in the first place? Clearly the VAS is a successful scheme in Karnataka, because back in 2014 a survey found that since its implementation there was a decline of close to 64% in mortality from conditions covered by the scheme.

 

Now only because of carelessness on the part of the Siddaramaiah government, these patients will be terribly inconvenienced. Covered under this scheme is care for catastrophic illness, hospitalisation, surgeries and therapies through the identified network of healthcare providers. So treatment regarding neurology, heart and cancer-related problems, burns, neo-natal care and poly-trauma cases can be availed by the BPL patients.

 

 

With the private hospitals turning away such patients, who will be responsible for the loss of life or deterioration in a patient’s condition because of lack of medical care? The poor come here because they have assurance they will receive good medical care but if these doors were to be closed for them, it will be quite a blow for them. The government needs to answer these problems in the swiftest manner possible.

 

The state government has in recent times announced a spate of projects like Tender Sure for Roads in which they have proposed to spend close to ₹300 crore, the state is getting ₹900 crore from the Union government to create and conserve forests and ecology, surely all this money is not being pumped in there.

 

What the government must also look into is that every time there is an attack on hospitals, a political drama being staged in hospitals, a strike in the hospital or any such matter, it always ends in the patients being made to suffer. Now with this situation at hand, the government may even expedite the payment to these hospitals, but had they been on time with the payments, this situation would not have arisen.