The tall claims of the state government to provide free treatment to drug addicts have fallen flat as patients and their families are forced to pay for therapy at various government hospitals here.
The families of drug addicts are not only submitting fees for admitting them at de-addiction centres of hospitals but they are also purchasing some of the medicines from outside due to non-availability of drugs at the hospital pharmacies.
Recently, chief minister Parkash Singh Badal had announced a state-level de-addiction and rehabilitation programme under which drug addicts would be given free treatment and medicines at government hospitals across Punjab.
While Badal had also announced that the state government would spread awareness among the masses during special camps and NGOs would be involved in the campaign, nothing is happening on the ground.
A doctor said he got information about the special camps on Friday and it was really difficult to manage camps without proper planning and scheduling.
He said no information was passed to them about counselors and supporting staff for the camps. HT found that no banners, signboards or other publicity material were prepared or pasted for holding these camps.
Even worse, daily patients visiting psychiatrists are being recorded by the health department as drug addicts.
There has been a sharp increase in the number of drug addicts visiting de-addiction centres after the state government announced to fight the drug smuggling menace tooth and nail thus bringing down the supply of contrabands in villages and towns.
A doctor at the ESI Hospital said around 70-80 drug addicts were coming for treatment at the hospital centre everyday and many of them were admitted. Earlier, the out-patient department (OPD) number of such patients was just 30-40 only.
The doctor further said that the police were also bringing addicts to the centre and then taking them back to their villages. But most of these addicts were coming on their own, he added.
He said the shortage of drugs was a major problem the department faced and the government should send fresh supply of medicines to hospitals immediately.
A patient informed that he had to purchase some medicines from the market since they were not available at the hospital pharmacy.
When contacted, Dr RL Bassan said he would be able to comment on the issue later citing a busy schedule.
Punjab health department director Dr Karanjit Singh said only outpatient department (OPD) facilities had been announced free of cost for drug addicts.
He, however, failed to clarify whether drug addicts and their families were paying for OPD slips.