Shillong: The Hynniewtrep Integrated Territorial Organisation (HITO) on Sunday sought the intervention of Meghalaya chief minister Conrad K Sangma over the decision of North Eastern Indira Gandhi Regional Institute of Health & Medical Sciences (NEIGRIHMS) to charge Rs 10,000 from COVID-19 patients at the time of admission.

In a letter to the CM, Wanbun N Dkhar, the secretary of the social organisation, also raised concern about the hospital management allowing a few pharmacy representatives to be present at the reception and collect data and related information of all the COVID-19 patients admitted at the NEIGRIHMS.

HITO also raised concern about an order that requires the area accounts office (AAO) (outsource) of the Meghalaya Health Insurance Scheme (MHIS) to create a separate account for COVID-19 patients admitted for receiving the deposit. Another complaint raised was the procedure and conduct of administration relating to MHIS.

EastMojo spoke with NEIGRIHMS director Dr P Bhattacharya over the issue. He clarified: “This is a wrong impression that people have created. The poor or the people living below the poverty line (BPL) do not have to pay for the services at the hospital.”

“Till now, we have been treating all BPL patients and patients who are poor without a card (after proper evaluation). We have been treating them free of cost and will continue to do so. BPL patients don’t have to deposit any money,” said Bhattacharya.

“It’s only the others who have to deposit Rs 10,000 at the counter manned by a dedicated team. The patients are allowed to deposit it later, if they don’t have the said amount at that moment,” he added.

Dr Bhattacharya clarified that the main objective of the Rs 10,000 deposit is to reduce the chances of the spread of COVID-19 inside the hospital. “We want to reduce the interaction with the patients’ attendants. We have so many patients who are COVID-19 positive and they are walking around in the hospital. Also, as many as 125 of our health workers are either COVID-19 positive or under quarantine. If the infection spreads, we will be forced to shut the hospital due to shortage of staff,” said Bhattacharya.

He further explained that the Rs 10,000 deposit is actually the money that they were already paying. “The only difference is that they now have to deposit it at the counter,” he added.

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The hospital categorises non-BPL patients such as those with the Meghalaya Health Insurance Scheme (MHIS) and Arunachal Health Insurance Scheme (AHIS). “The third category is neither poor nor BPL. They are the ones that have to pay for their services at the hospital,” he said.

Meanwhile, NEIGRIHMS has come up with a new set of COVID-19 protocol. Now, an attendant will not be allowed to enter the COVID-19 ward. “The hospital has made all necessary arrangements to treat the patient, feed them and even take them to the washroom,” said Dr Bhattacharya.

Earlier, medicines and other equipment that were not available at the institute’s pharmacies were to be procured by the patient’s attendants. “But now, our staffers will coordinate that procurement from within the pharmacies inside the campus. There are four pharmacies, and they will be given discounts as well,” he added.

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