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HindustanTimes Fri,01 Aug 2014

Hospitals pocket benefits of Punjab CM's cancer fund

Vishav Bharti, Hindustan Times  Chandigarh/Amritsar, April 18, 2013
First Published: 23:48 IST(18/4/2013) | Last Updated: 16:44 IST(19/4/2013)

It remains to be seen how much relief the Mukh Mantri Punjab Cancer Rahat Kosh Scheme (MMPCRKS) has brought to cancer patients, but some hospitals sure seem to be making good money off it. An HT investigation has revealed that a nexus between state health department officials and hospitals empanelled under the scheme, started in June 2011, has meant that monetary benefit fails to reach the patients.

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Among the intended beneficiaries is Tipu Sultan, a resident of Amritsar. As per health department records available with HT, Rs. 1.5 lakh were released to Amritsar's Shergill Multi Specialty Hospital for his treatment in September 2011.

He did get treatment but spent money from his own pocket and with a relative's help. "They charged in full, saying they were not sure whether the case will be cleared by the government or not," said Sultan. The case was cleared, as Sultan even got a letter from the health department saying money had been given to the hospital. But doctor-owner IJS Shergill claimed, "We have sent the utilisation proposal to the district civil surgeon, but have not received any information or money in the case of this particular patient (Sultan)."

Guidelines say hospitals will only be sanctioned 50% of the total amount from the maximum 1.5 lakh per case initially, and the rest would be released only after submitting the utilisation certificate. While in some cases even letters regarding the release of money are not being received directly by the beneficiaries, in other cases patients are told they will be given discount on chemotherapy medicines, the price of which is usually inflated on paper.

Another case is of Bathinda-based Mehal Singh Sandhu, diagnosed with intestinal cancer in April 2011. As per records compiled till December 2012, district authorities okayed his application for grant from the 'rahat kosh' (relief fund) on August 25, 2011, and Rs. 1.5 lakh were given to Delwyn Hospital, Chandigarh.

But Sandhu claims to have not got benefit worth a penny. "Hospital officials said the money would be adjusted in the medicines they would purchase," said the patient's son, Sukhdev Singh. "But neither did we get any medicine nor any discount on any of the procedures." The hospital's medical director, Dr Neetu Bedi was not available for comment as her office staff said she was abroad.

Sandhu had first undergone surgery at Fortis Hospital in SAS Nagar, from where he went for chemo at the relatively cheaper Delwyn Hospital, which has treated around 30 patients under the scheme and got Rs. 35 lakh so far.

How the scam directly hits the patients is all the more evident in the case of Manohar Lal, resident of Navan Kot in Amritsar, who is suffering from prostate cancer.

As per records, Rs. 1.45 lakh for his treatment have been sanctioned in December last year to Surjit Multi Specialty Hospital, but the treatment has not begun. "We have spent Rs. 5-6 lakh at other hospitals. But since coming to Surjit hospital in November, we have not received any treatment," said Mamta Rani, the patient's wife, showing his record.

It's worth a mention that Surjit hospital is one of the biggest beneficiaries among the 28 private hospitals empanelled under the scheme, having got Rs. 70 lakh in names of around 50 patients. In this case, too, hospital authorities said doctor-owner Gagandeep Singh was not available for comment. 

What's the scheme
*Mukh Mantri Punjab Cancer Rahat Kosh Scheme started in June 2011
*Targets patients who don't have insurance or are not govt employees
*Financial help up to a maximum of Rs. 1.5 lakh given
*36 hospitals empanelled by health department, 28 of them private

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