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Apathy affecting poor patients

I was diagnosed with pneumonia first and after that I was afflicted by dengue, which has kept me bedridden since the last two years. Water has accumulated in my ribs and I am living off medicines. I can’t even go out and work.

My father died a few years ago and presently I am staying with my mother and younger brother.
My mother, Zaida Begum, is suffering from an eye disease. She needs to be operated soon otherwise she will lose her vision. On August 25, we went to St Stephen’s Hospital for her treatment.

We (EWS — economically weaker sections — patients)are supposed to be given free treatment by these private hospitals built on government lands. St Stephens Hospital is one of them. We went there and showed the required documents. My mother even showed her widow certificate and the death certificate of my father. But they denied free treatment and asked us to pay for the bed and also for the operation.

They told us that only the medical check-ups are free of cost. But the hospital bed and treatments that include operations and tests are chargeable. These hospitals charge for all these medical facilities, like any other private hospital. For my treatment, they said about Rs 20,000 to 35,000 needs to be paid. I even told them about the new law, but they said that they have not been notified about any such rule.

Also, even if they are saying the doctors’ fee is excluded from these, I feel their fee is included in all these high charges they impose on us for the treatment. How can I pay for it? The hospital staff also said that if they provide free treatment to us, lakhs of poor people will que up and demand for the same.

They asked us to go to a government hospital, and not a private one. But government hospitals give you delayed dates . If I wait for such a long time I would die.

There were five of us who went that day and all were denied free treatment. One of them had kidney stones. There was another one who was suffering from cancer. Delay of treatment in her case can prove fatal.

Also, there are certain discrepancies regarding medicines which are available at government hospitals. Hospitals claim that they are providing medicines at a subsidised rate to the poor, but this is not the case. Only cheap medicines— up to Rs 50 — are available at these hospitals. And those above this rate are kept at private medical stores. This is how they profit. But it is not right and the matter should be looked into.

We could not complain to a higher authority as no one is willing to listen to us. We do not even have money to fight a case. My brother is just 16 years old and me and my mother are sick, so he is the only one who earns now. But how long will we survive like this?

— As told to Shruti Das