The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is planning to charge more from patients who live outside Mumbai, but seek medical services at the city’s civic hospitals. The idea received much flak from corporators and civil societies, who called it a “discriminatory act”. The civic body stated 45% people treated at civic hospitals in the city are from outside Mumbai.
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“Giving them treatment is our first priority. A proper mechanism will be developed to decide on the fees to be charged to them,” Ajoy Mehta, BMC commissioner, told media persons reacting to the criticism. Rais Shaikh, a corporator from the Samajwadi Party, opposed the idea.
The civic body in its budget stated it is thinking of applying a separate fee structure for patients coming from outside Mumbai. This would mean patients from nearby regions including Thane, Dombivli, Navi Mumbai and Kalyan will have to pay a different fee as opposed to those living in Mumbai. “You cannot discriminate on the grounds of a person’s residence. There is no difference between a poor person from Mumbai or outside Mumbai,” said Amit Karkhanis, a lawyer practicing in the Bombay high court, adding that the right to healthcare is a fundamental right guaranteed by the constitution, which will be violated if the proposal is implemented.
However, a senior administrative official said the rationale behind the proposal is not to deny services to non-Mumbai residents, but to make nearby corporations responsible. “Hospitals in nearby districts have taken the civic body for granted. Instead of developing their hospitals, patients are regularly referred to hospitals in the city,” said the official. “This will spearhead a movement from the community in other districts for demanding healthcare in their own vicinity. We want nearby districts to develop their hospitals instead of relying on Mumbai’s hospitals.”
Sources from the civic body said at least 30% patients being treated at the BMC are from outside Maharashtra.
“Many corporators as well as citizens have complained about the overcrowding at civic hospitals. This is the only way we can reduce the burden of patients and improve the quality of healthcare in the city,” said a senior doctor working at a civic hospital.
BMC to add 1,353 beds to three major civic hospitals
To improve access to healthcare in Mumbai, the civic body will add another 1,353 beds to major civic hospitals — KEM, Nair and Sion Hospital — in the coming fiscal year. Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) chief Ajoy Mehta announced the extension of existing health services during the 2016-17 budget.
The additional beds are almost equal to the number in a major municipal hospital (Nair Hospital’s bed strength is 1,325).
The number of beds at KEM Hospital will be increased to 2,250 from 1,800, whereas at Nair, the bed strength will go up to 1,800. At Sion Hospital, the number will rise to 1,900 from 1,472.
Apart from increasing the beds at the hospitals, several new technologies — costing more than Rs36 crore, will be instituted at the three hospitals. “Ten new modular operation theatres at the cost of Rs18.55 crore are being installed at three major hospitals by October 2016,” Mehta said, adding a human milk bank will be set up at two hospitals — Rajawadi Hospital in Ghatkopar and Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Hospital in Kandivli.
The civic-run KEM Hospital will also be equipped with 50 intensive care beds that will help solve the growing problem of availability of ventilators in the city.
The civic body has made budgetary provisions to improve primary healthcare in the community. “As per Rindani Committee guidelines, for every 50,000 people, one dispensary has to be created,” said Mehta.
The civic body is expected to add 89 more dispensaries to the existing 173 that are operating.