People queuing up to get tested for coronavirus infection in Patiala.(Bharat Bhushan/HT file photo)
People queuing up to get tested for coronavirus infection in Patiala.(Bharat Bhushan/HT file photo)

Punjab hikes health charges in govt hospitals, draws flak from Opposition

Health officials clarified that Covid patients will continue to get free treatment at all government hospitals in the state
Press Trust of India | By Press Trust of India
PUBLISHED ON AUG 31, 2020 03:22 PM IST

Chandigarh: The Punjab government has revised the fee for several medical services in government hospitals in the state with effect from September 1, drawing sharp reaction from the Opposition.

Among the services, the charge for an ambulance has been raised from Rs 5 per km to Rs 15 per km, while the fee for an ECG has been increased from Rs 60 to Rs 75.

The OPD registration charge has been increased from Rs 5 to Rs 10 and the admission charge for general ward has been hiked from Rs 25 to Rs 40.

The operation charges for minor surgery have been revised upward to Rs 250 from Rs 100 earlier and for major surgery, the fee has been increased from Rs 750 to Rs 1,200, as per the order.

The fee for private AC room has been increased from Rs 500 to Rs 1,000 per day and bed charges in general ward has been increased from Rs 30 to Rs 40.

However, the state health officials said these charges are meant for the maintenance of hospital buildings and other infrastructure.

They clarified that coronavirus patients will continue to get free treatment at all government hospitals in the state.

Opposition parties, the Shiromani Akali Dal and the Aam Aadmi Party, have slammed the Congress-led dispensation in the state for raising the charges for medical services.

The SAD accused the state government of “profiteering” during a time when the Covid-19 pandemic was at its peak. SAD leader and former minister Daljit Singh Cheema described the move as an “unfortunate development” and said that instead of making health services more affordable and ensuring free treatment to the poor, the government had raised rates of all services.

“It seems that the Congress government wants to profiteer from the plight of the people,” Cheema said in a statement here.

The rates of services, including stay in private ward which had been doubled from Rs 500 per night to Rs 1,000 to a 15 to 20% increase in X-ray, ultrasound, ECG and operation charges, would make treatment in government hospitals out of the reach of the poor and needy, said Cheema.

“This hike in charges should be withdrawn immediately. The government should subsidise these services on humanitarian grounds instead of seeking to profit from them,” said the Akali leader.

AAP leader Aman Arora said the state government has put an additional financial burden on the poor for availing health services by increasing charges.

Describing it as “anti-people”, Arora said the party would launch an agitation if this decision was not taken back.

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