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Proposal to revise user charges at AIIMS put on hold

New Delhi: Facing stiff opposition from the faculty members, AIIMS has put the proposal of revising treatment charges at the premier medical institute on the back-burner. In a meeting held recently, the feasibility of revision of user charges was discussed and a majority of the faculty members opposed it, saying the concept of equity and access to healthcare will be compromised as mostly poor patients come to AIIMS for treatment.

Following opposition from faculty members, the proposal to revise user charges has been put on hold, an AIIMS official said. The finance ministry had asked the All India Institute of Medical Sciences to undertake a review and revise its user charges which have not been revised for the last 20 years.

AIIMS Deputy Director V Srinivas said the institute has been presenting demands for additional allocation amounting to Rs 300 crore, in non-plan expenditures which are of recurring nature including salaries, consumables, maintenance and establishment expenditure every year. The institute currently generates Rs 101 crore from user charges which include OPD charges, diagnostic tests in various departments, radiology charges, in-patient care and room rentals.

As per the minutes of the meeting circulated among all members, Dr Anoop Saraya, HOD Gastroenterology said a Parliamentary panel and WHO Expert committee have expressed concerns in the past against levying of user charges in the institute as it makes services inaccessible for larger section of the society. A parliamentary committee, in its report in 2015, had stated that user charges are barriers to accessing healthcare for most people, especially the poor. Raj Kumar, the senior financial advisor, said user charges for services and investigation for BPL patients may remain completely exempted and higher user charges may be levied on patients availing private ward services.

According minutes of the meeting, some faculty members proposed that statistics pertaining to user charges collection need to be analysed through the biostatistics department or computer facility to understand the existing proportion of fund collected from general and private ward patients. “Dr Saraya expressed concern that the facility of exemption of service charges for BPL patients is a largely exploited as 60 per cent of genuine poor patients do not have BPL cards. Therefore BPL card alone cannot be considered for exemption of user charges,” the minutes of the meeting read.

According to sources, the proposal to make AIIMS run on a revenue generation model had been proposed in 2005 and 2010 but was later rejected due to opposition by doctors and Members of Parliament. In 2015, in its proposal to the standing finance committee, the administration had proposed a hike of nearly 20-30 per cent on its charges for various tests and procedures.

Source: PTI
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