Mamata’s Swasthya Sathi scheme falls flat as private hospitals play spoilsport

Kolkata: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee shows her 'Swasthya Sathi' smart card after collecting it at a Kolkata Municipal Corporation distribution centre, on Jan 5, 2021.

Kolkata, (Samajweekly) Ahead of the crucial state Assembly polls, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee boastfully announced Swasthya Sathi cards for all residents of the state as they can avail a health cover of up to Rs.5 lakh.

She had also sounded a warning saying if anyone refuses to give health care, the government has the power to cancel their licence. The CM said the state government had the right to cancel licences of private hospitals and nursing homes if they refuse to treat patients under the goverment’s Swasthya Sathi health scheme.

But there have been several reports where patients, despite carrying Swasthya Sathi cards, were refused medical treatment at private hospitals in the state.

Swasthya Sathi is a flagship health insurance scheme launched by the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress government, providing health cover of up to Rs.5 lakh per annum to a family for secondary and tertiary care.

According to reports, at least two incidents were reported in the recent past where a septuagenarian patient, Mohammad Gaffar, with the card was denied treatment by private nursing home authorities at Siliguri’s Matigara in Darjeeling district, leading to his death. The medical facility allegedly asked for cash from the patient’s party which they couldn’t provide in time.

In another incident, a patient named Sikha Rani Sen was denied treatment when she was taken to Kolkata’s Red Plus Nursing Home near Baghajatin. The authorities refused to accept her state government health card and asked for a cash payment instead.

“The health scheme is for poor people. No one should harass poor people,” Banerjee had said, asking patients’ parties to lodge police complaints in case of any harassment.

Sources, however, said that private hospitals and nursing homes in Bengal are refusing to admit patients with Swasthya Sathi cards despite the CM’s warning. Recently, Banerjee also instructed state chief secretary Alapan Bandhopadhyay to look into the matter, sources at the state secretariat Nabanno said.