Contrary to the tall claims of the Punjab health department of providing treatment and conducting deliveries of women free of cost, the staff of the maternity ward of Dr Mathura Dass Pahwa civil hospital here has been accused of demanding bribe for every delivery at the ward. The accredited social health activists, commonly known as ASHAs, have stoop up against the practice and staged a protest outside the civil surgeon's office here on Thursday.
As per information, the state as well as the Union government, under the National Health Mission (NHM), are providing free treatment to women during pregnancy and conducting deliveries free of cost.
Besides, every woman is supposed to get Rs 1,000 under the Mata Kaushalya Kalyan Yojana (MKKY) for giving birth to a child in a government hospital and the BPL woman gets additional Rs 700 under the Janani Shishu Suraksha Yojana (JSY).
As per the allegations levelled by the ASHA Union, whenever an activist brings a pregnant woman for delivery to the civil hospital, staff nurses demand `500 to ` 1,500 for every delivery while class IV employees demand `200 to `500 from the family. In this situation ASHAs have no choice but to tell the family concerned to pay the amount to the nurses and the class IV staff to avoid discomfort in the hospital. Besides, they also demand extra money for issuing a birth certificate of the newborn, they alleged.
"We have requested the civil surgeon and other authorities many a time to stop this practice, but no action has been taken by the authorities," a union leader Balvir Kaur Daroli Bhai alleged.
Manjit Kaur Chandpurana, another ASHA Union leader, said, "ASHAs get incentive under the NHM for taking a pregnant woman to the civil hospital for delivery, but staff nurses insult them. The ASAH is not provided any room or bed for stay at night and they have to spend the night outside of by walking here and there."
"At least 20 to 30 ASHAs out of a total 740 if the district visit the hospital's maternity ward everyday and they should be provided a separate room for night stay," she added.
"The civil surgeon has assured to look into the issue and solve the problem within a fortnight. We will start an indefinite strike and dharna if our grievance is not addressed in 15 days," the union leaders added.
When contacted, chief medical officer (CMO) Dr Renu Mangla said, "It is a serious matter, but I was not aware about it before ASHAs highlighted it. However, I have marked an inquiry to senior medical officer Dr Arwinder Pal Singh regarding the allegations of ASHAs. I am still waiting for the report and action will certainly be taken against those who are found guilty." email@example.com