Srinagar: The government of India’s ambitious health scheme ‘Free Diagnostics Service Initiative’ for providing free of cost medical examinations to patients in Kashmir has been abandoned.
Consequently, patients have to cough up money for major tests except for 18 examinations which on papers are done free of cost at government-run hospitals. The tests are hemoglobin value, blood sugar, MP test, sputum test, urine for pregnancy, Urine R/E, Stool R/E, TLC, DLC, ESR, BT, CT, Blood Grouping, Serum Billirubin, Semen Analysis, STS test, HIV test, HBsAG (for pregnant women) and Dengue test.
The scheme rolled out in 2016 directs government run hospitals across India to do nearly 100 diagnostic tests free of cost.
But an investigation carried by Kashmir Reader revealed that patients are being charged money for tests including the ones which are supposedly free of cost in Kashmir.
According to aggrieved patients and attendants, they are forced to spend huge money on basic testing and imaging in and outside the hospitals.
“The free diagnostic initiative covers all major examinations but we are being denied all of them,” said Arif Khan of Pampore, who was accompanying his ailing father at SMHS Hospital.
“My father got admitted to the medicine department of SMHS Hospital last week and I spent nearly 10,000 rupees on his investigations alone which include multiple MRI scans, biopsies and blood/urine cultures,” he added.
Another attendant, Jameela of Ganderbal said that despite holding BPL category, she had to pay for every test in Bone and Joint Hospital, Barzulla.
“Officials denied us free investigations including X-Ray scan and CT Scan citing lack of funds for us,” she said adding that they borrowed some money to complete the treatment of his husband who fell from height.
On the other hand, the initiative has a provision of involving private partners. But, the government out rightly rejected it thereby denying poor patients the free facility.
Director Health Services Kashmir, Dr Kunzes Dolma told Kashmir Reader that they will start the scheme soon after clearing certain technical difficulties.
“The scheme is very prestigious and we are pursuing it seriously. It will take some more time before the final implementation,” she said.
According to her, the lack of funds was also an issue in the implementation of this scheme. “We have taken up the issue with government of India and we are hopeful to provide the free diagnostic facilities soon.”