SRINAGAR: At Lal Ded maternity hospital, nothing comes free for pregnant woman—the supposed beneficiaries of the New Delhi-sponsored ‘Janani Shishu Shuraksha Karikaram’ (JSSK).
The National Health Mission (NHM) programme, the aim of which is to provide free medical facilities to expecting mothers during their stay at the hospital, have to pay for medical investigations, while they are also denied other benefits offered under the scheme.
“I had to pay for every test that the doctor asked me to do. Nobody told me that tests are done free here until I learned about JSSK from an outsider,” Afroza Ameen, a patient, said.
In May, an amount of Rs 1 crore was allotted to the hospital for extending JSSK benefits to the patients. But the patients are alleging that the benefits never reached them.
Under JSSK, every pregnant woman is provided at least 11 facilities free of cost. These range from free and cashless delivery to free diagnostics, drugs, diet, blood, and free pick and drop facilities.
The scheme is mostly beneficial to the people who couldn’t otherwise afford government hospitals and would prefer delivering babies at home.
“This is a wonderful scheme, especially for the people who are poor. There expenses are borne by the state, but unfortunately the hospital authorities are not running this scheme as required,” a doctor at the hospital said on the condition of anonymity.
“Poor still have to pay for medical investigations here. We often see carrying receipts of the payments made for the tests. But if any influential patient comes to the hospital, she gets everything free,” the doctor said.
A resident medical officer at Lal Ded Hospital added: “The poor people don’t even get blood free here. They have to give one pint to get one from the hospital in exchange. But for bureaucrats, it is all free.”
The pick-and-drop facility offered under JSSK is also not made available to the patients post delivery.
“Under the JSSK scheme, the hospital is supposed to provide transport to us. But we don’t get it. We have to take home our patients, including the ones who have undergone cesareans, using uncomfortable public transport,” Khatija, an attendant, shared.
“We have to pay for deliveries as well. The midwives and nursing orderlies don’t handover the babies to us till you pay them. They compel us to pay them,” she said.
However, the medical superintendent concerned, Dr Mushtaq Ahmad Rather, disagreed.
“Ninety-five per cent of the drugs are provided free to the patients at Lal Ded Hospital, and medical examinations are also free. Yes, transportation is a problem,” he told Kashmir Reader.
Dr Mohan Singh, director NHM, said he has allotted funds to the hospitals running the JSSK scheme in Kashmir and Jammu regions.
“But managing it is their concern,” he said. “When Jammu and Kashmir Medical Supplies Corporation was not functioning, we were giving money to the hospitals to buy medicine from open market.”
He too agreed that providing transport to the patients was a problem.
“We are working on it,” he said.