Monday, 30 November, 2020
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EDITORIAL

Free Treatment To Needy



As hospitals across the country started charging fees to the coronavirus patients, the government has instructed them to treat the needy patients free of cost. Incidents of hospitals asking fees in advance from patients and their relatives have gone up. Several hospitals have turned away the virus patients from admitting, raising the fear of patients' life. These propensities have forced the Ministry of Health and Population to issue an instruction aimed at foiling hospitals’ bid to impose fees on every patient regardless of their economic condition. Hospitals undermining this directive are liable to face a stern government action, the ministry warned.

With the surge in coronavirus patients, the number of infected people seeking hospital care has increased sharply. Until a couple of weeks ago, the government has granted free treatment to all sufferers. Authorities later agreed that they would provide free treatment to the patients who cannot afford to pay hospital bills owing to their poor economic condition. Besides, the senior citizens above 70, people with disabilities, frontline health employees and workers engaged in sanitation would enjoy the free hospitalisation. The patients, who do not fall into the government's categories or those who can afford to pay the hospital bills, need to bear all the expenses of treatment. However, the government has clarified that it would bear the expenses of COVID-19 patients if they demonstrated their inability to foot the hospital bills. The Prime Minister, while addressing the nation a few days ago, had announced this arrangement, which the Health Ministry has now endeavoured to implement.

The government might have brought this policy, as it may have endured a considerable crunch in resources to give free tests and treatment to all and sundry across the country. Apart from giving free care at the government health institutions, the authority had to foot the bills to all private hospitals where the virus patients underwent treatment for COVID-19. When people availed of free tests and treatment, they tended to rush to the hospitals for obtaining tests even when they had no symptoms of the pandemic. The long queues at the government hospitals revealed this. The new directive would help lessen the people's rush to the health centres, saving time, energy, and resources for the government. An elected government must take care of the needy people. Health benefits are one of the fundamental rights of the sovereign people and the government must offer such services as per the people's requirements. A considerable number of people in the country are those who cannot afford a minimal hospital bill, let alone the exorbitant fees. Without the government's help, a poor patient encounters a risk to his/her life.

After having issued a significant instruction, the health authority now needs to ensure that the entire needy patients receive the treatment for the patients with COVID-19 symptoms without bearing any expenses. Though determining the poor patients from those who are well-off poses a difficulty, the health department and hospital authorities need to work collectively to find a sound way to ascertain who are poor patients and who are not. This will enable the poor and needy to get free services. To make the government's new instruction more effective, measures to find out the needy patients are vital for achieving better outcomes in protecting the lives of the poor coronavirus patients. 

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