Assam Becomes First Indian State to Offer 24/7 Free Health Care to All

by VR Sreeraman on  April 13, 2010 at 1:43 PM Indian Health News
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 Assam Becomes First Indian State to Offer 24/7 Free Health Care to All
Assam has become the first state in the country to ensure the right to health to its people.

Underprivileged people, who were once unable to afford costly medical treatment in private clinics, are able do so now.

Mridul Saikia of Deeporbeel village near Guwahati is a farmer. He makes enough to look after his family, but the thought of a medical emergency and costly treatment used to give him nightmares.

With the introduction of the Assam Public Health Bill - 2010, many like Mridul, will now get free medical attention, especially in times of emergency.

People in the state especially those living below the poverty line, are happy with the initiative.

"People like us who dwell in villages, often can't get into a nursing home, because of financial constraints, and by the time we reach a government hospital, the patient dies," said Mridul Saikia, a resident of Deepborbeel village.

"During an emergency, we can't get into a nursing home, and because of money, we lose the patient. And to prevent this the Government has taken a right step and we are happy," he added.

"When this was bill was not there, we were forced to think about a government hospital and to reach there, takes time. In between, we find private nursing homes, but when we go there, we need a good amount of money," said Lakhan Teron, another local of the same village.

"We have seen in the village that a family had to sell their land, or give it for mortgage to get money for treatment, but now we are happy about the fact that in the private hospitals, we can avail 24 hours free service," he added.

According to the Bill, all emergency patients must be given free standard treatment for the first 24 hours in both government and private hospitals.

The patient may claim compensation, including transportation cost to the private hospitals, which would be borne by the state health department in case of non-availability of service at the government hospital.

Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi reiterated his government's commitment to provide healthcare to all people.

"We are giving priority to education and healthcare. We want to provide health care services to everyone that is our priority. And yes it is a very challenging job," Gogoi said.

Even private medical institutions also welcomed the government's step, and said, they would support the Bill

"Every organization and doctor will support it and second what is now said in constitution, government is aiming to provide it. This is a welcome step, and, I have passed on my message to the honorable health minister and health department, and all in the non-government public private sector health organization. We support the bill," said Tamnay Das, Managing Director, International Hospital.

The government will bear all expenses of surgery conducted on children with holes in their hearts.

The weaker segments of the society, such as daily wage earners and rickshaw-pullers, will get a sustenance amount during the period they have to take bed rest.

The bill also requires the government to pay Rs 100 and Rs 70 to patients admitted in medical colleges and civil hospital respectively.

The Bill also makes authorities responsible and accountable in case of epidemics, and contagious, viral and waterborne diseases.

"The government is going to give general medical health for 24 hours. As general public I am happy as anyone can avail the services and especially for poor people, they can come anytime nd health is wealth," said Azizur Hoq, Assam

People of the state have expressed happiness over the fact that the poorest o the poor can get treated n super specialty hospitals.

"We are happy as government of India has given 24 hours of free medical services. If somebody does not have money, he will get free treatment. It is good for them," said Surajita.

To make this historic step successful, the Centre has assured the state government about providing the required of funds for emergency treatment.

By January 2011, the underprivileged in Assam will start getting emergency medical facilities free of cost.

Source: ANI

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