Several lakh workers and their dependents who were covered under the Employees State Insurance (ESI) scheme and receiving cashless treatment are in great distress after the empanelled private and government hospitals decided not to renew contracts in Kannur and Kasaragod districts.
There were eight empanelled hospitals in the two districts, and they were offering cashless treatment under the ESI scheme, said P. Dharman, a member of the Centre of Indian Trade Union (CITU). But all have discontinued the service, and, as a result, patients who require advanced treatment are forced to depend on empanelled hospitals in other districts, he added.
“Except in Kannur and Kasaragod, all other districts have empanelled hospitals. Some private empanelled hospitals have branches in Kannur. But they are not willing to implement the ESI scheme in the two districts despite orders from National and State Human Rights commissions,” he said.
Though the SHRC had ordered the upgrading of the ESI hospital at Thottada to a super-specialty facility, no steps have been taken in that direction, he alleged.
Meanwhile, private hospital managements said it was the inordinate delay in disbursement of funds by the ESI Corporation that forced many empanelled hospitals to withdraw from the scheme. Besides, the hospitals are offering treatment at a cost fixed in 2014, said a senior official at AKG Hospital. He added that treatment expenses had escalated, and that it was difficult to offer treatment at a rate fixed several years ago.
Around 4 lakh people are covered by the ESI scheme, said an official at ESI hospital, Thotada. Speaking on condition of anonymity, he said the hospital has sufficient number of doctors to provide specialised treatment. Even superspeciality treatment can be provided by upgrading the hospital with the latest equipment and facilities. However, no steps have been taken in that direction.