Bhopal: The Union government’s most lauded health scheme, ‘Ayushman Bharat Niramayam’ failed to take off in Madhya Pradesh during the deadly second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In May and June, during the second wave, close to 13,500 patients got treatment under the ‘Ayushman Bharat Niramayam’ scheme, which is 8.15% of the total 1.60 lakh Covid-19 patients treated in the same duration when the state was witnessing over 12,000 fresh Covid-19 cases every day with a growth rate of 18%, according to official figures.
This happened when Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan gave directions on May 6, 2021 to all District Collectors to treat Ayushman card holding Covid-19 patients in private hospitals that have been authorised by the state for Covid-19 treatment under the ‘Mukhyamantri Covid19 Upchar Yojana’ in the backdrop of reports of the massive spread of the infection in rural areas.
Chouhan also urged the Collectors to make new cards in case they were unavailable with the patients. Further, he announced to hike 40% budget of the Ayushman Bharat to cater to the overwhelming Covid-19 patients in the 584 hospitals authorised by the state government for the treatment of Covid-19 patients amid the second wave.
However, the data provided by the State Ayushman Bharat Bhopal nodal office shows that between May 6 to June 31 this year, only 13,500 Ayushaman card holders got treatment in the state.
Confirming it, S Vishwanathan, CEO Ayushman Bharat, Madhya Pradesh said, “Over 13,000 Covid19 patients, got treatment under Ayushaman Bharat in May and June this year.” He, however, did not share the data of total Covid-19 patients treated under the Ayushman scheme in April this year.
According to the government records, Madhya Pradesh has 2.48 crore Ayushman cardholders; over 2.45 lakh patients, including Covid-19 affected ones, were treated in the last fiscal year (between April 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021) and spent Rs 391 crores. Of this spending, 167 crores were paid to 220 hospitals including seven private medical colleges, which were undertaken by the government for treating more than 32,000 Covid-19 patients. However, the officials did not clarify how many Covid-19 patients had been treated under the Ayushman scheme the previous year.
Speaking to Newsclick, S Vishwanathan explained that during the first wave, the state government had undertaken 220 private hospitals including seven private medical colleges for free treatment of the Covid-19 patients for a short duration.
He further explained that in the second wave, the state government had undertaken six to seven hospitals for the free treatment of Covid-19 patients, and when the cases surged, especially in the rural areas, the government authorised 584 private hospitals for Covid-19 treatment and asked the Collectors of all the districts to ensure the Covid-19 patients get free treatment under the Ayushman Scheme and that no hospital can deny treatment to them.
But, all the efforts failed to wield results and only around 8% of Covid-19 patients benefited from the Ayushman Scheme. On many occasions, the hospitals reportedly not only denied treatment to patients under the Ayushman Bharat scheme but also charged them for the treatment.
Commenting on it, Anant Bhan, a Bhopal-based Public Health Expert, said that the Ayushman Bharat scheme is meant to provide free access to healthcare through insurance mechanisms for socio-economically deprived families. Patients and families impacted during the pandemic and needing hospital care have had to struggle with both accessing care and paying for it, especially in the second wave. "Hence, it is surprising that in Madhya Pradesh, only under 10% admitted COVID-19 patients could access benefits under the Ayushman Bharat scheme," he said.
RTI Reveals Only 18,000 Got Treatment
According to information acquired through Rewa-based RTI activist Vivek Pandey, only 18,304 patients got benefits of the Ayushman Bharat Scheme in Madhya Pradesh between March 2020 to the first week of June 2021 and Rs 34 crore has been spent on it.
In reply to the RTI, director of the National Health Authority (NHA) said only 6,05,308 persons received the benefit of the scheme across the country including around 18,000 people in Madhya Pradesh. The NHA is the nodal agency for the PM Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY), a component of the Ayushman Bharat scheme.