L-G asks Jipmer to put order restricting free treatment on hold

Institution’s circular had said only BPL cardholders could avail free treatment

Even as Jipmer’s move to restrict free treatment, including out-patient services, investigations and implants, to patients holding below poverty line (BPL) ration cards from any State drew flak from various parties, Lieutenant-Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan on Friday directed the institution to put the proposal on hold.

As per a recent circular issued by Jipmer, only those with a monthly income not exceeding ₹2,499 — the income limit adopted by the Puducherry government — and with BPL ration cards from any State will qualify for free treatment from October 1.

“It has been decided by the competent authority that free treatment, including OPD, investigations and implant treatment, will be provided to all patients who have BPL ration cards from any State. To avail free treatment, patients have to bring the BPL ration card issued by their State,” the circular issued by the Jipmer medical superintendent said.

It stated that the decision would take effect from October 1, and thereafter, no other proof of income would be accepted.

The order also noted that as an institution of national importance and a referral hospital, Jipmer got patients not just from Puducherry, but also from several other States.

Even as the circular, widely seen as restricting the scope of free treatment, led to outcry among parties, the Lt. Governor directed the Health Secretary to inquire into the matter and asked Jipmer to maintain status quo in its treatment policy in the meantime.

Parties oppose move

Demanding revocation of the Jipmer order, MP (Villupuram) D. Ravikumar said the proposal betrayed the institution’s motive to charge those without BPL ration cards. “Demanding BPL cards from patients to access free treatment is not only impractical, but illegal too. Is Jipmer a public-oriented government institution or a profiteering corporate facility?” he said.

The Opposition, DMK, also flayed the move and threatened to launch protests if the order was not withdrawn.

Leader of the Opposition and DMK convenor (south) R. Siva said the circular was issued at a time when the common man was severely hit by COVID-19 and was struggling to meet treatment costs. The Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana was not accepted in Jipmer and not properly implemented in many hospitals in Puducherry, the DMK leader said.

Jipmer was already not recruiting locals for jobs, and the new order would fuel further public anger against it, he said. Mr. Siva said ever since the BJP-led NDA had come to power at the Centre, Puducherry was being “deceived in various ways”.

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