Activists fume as K'taka govt decides to run new BBMP hospital in PPP model

The Urban Development department has decided to handover the newly constructed BBMP hospital to Narayana Health.
Activists fume as K'taka govt decides to run new BBMP hospital in PPP model
Activists fume as K'taka govt decides to run new BBMP hospital in PPP model
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Healthcare activists in Karnataka are protesting the state government’s decision to handover a super-speciality public hospital in Bengaluru in a Public Private Partnership (P-P-P) model.

The Urban Development department has decided to hand over the newly constructed BBMP hospital at Shivajinagar, built with public money on government land, to Narayana Health, run by cardiologist Devi Shetty.

An online petition opposing the move has been started and has been addressed to CM SIddaramaiah, Bengaluru Mayor Sampath Raj. State Home Minister Ramalinga Reddy and Health Minister Rameshkumar.

The petitioners argue that the hospital is situated in an area where a majority of the population is economically backward and if it is run by a private player, people will lose out on the basic right of healthcare.

Questioning the motive of the state government, Akhila Vasan of the Karnataka Janaaroyga Chaluvali, said that there is no rationale for the government to use the model.

“There is no rationale for the government to go back to the PPP model in healthcare. It is the same government that had abandoned the Arogya Bandhu scheme.”

In the Arogya Bandhu scheme, the government partnered with not-for-profits, religious institutions and private players to run 52 primary health care centres. This was withdrawn after multiple complaints of frauds and denial of service. At the time, after the matter was dragged, the government had to wait till the respective contracts expired.

“This is not the only instance. Look at the Rajiv Gandhi Super-Speciality Hospital case (in Raichur). It was given to Apollo. In the 10 year period, the number of APL patients increased while the number of BPL beneficiaries reduced. There were a lot of complaints but the government, for a long time, was deaf to those asking for help,” said Akhila.

“They were collecting money from BPL patients and were seeking reimbursements from the government at the same time and hence, making money both ways. These sort of irregularities are not just claims but the government’s own Planning Commission findings,” added Akhila.

The Planning Commission (replaced by NITI Aayog) in its 2012 report had said that these two models were a failure, and were not feasible in its interest of affordable and holistic medical care.

Meanwhile, poor people had to seek medical care from cheaper private hospitals or migrate to Bengaluru for healthcare.

“It is not only the patients that were at loss. Even non-medical staff like lab technicians, nurses, ward boys were rendered jobless when the contract period,” Akhila said.

‘People will lose their right’

“If the government is the custodian, you have the right to question or demand from the government. This is the constitutional right,” said Akhila, arguing that these decisions are against the democratic principle.

Akhila said that once a private player becomes a custodian, elected representatives can shrug off responsibility.

“If it is given to a private entity, what is my locus standi? I become a charity seeker. I have to beg for treatment,” she said.

.“Nowhere in the world will you find that private management has made the efficiency of a hospital or any form of care better. Even your own (government) stats prove them wrong,” she added.

Akhila argued against the PPP model, where she said that private entities will not be welfare-centric.

“Private entities exist for profit. How do you expect to be welfare centric? That is an oxymoron. There will be services that will be cashless and you will be made to go through procedures which are not required for which you have to pay. Even if they don’t charge you, they will make you go through unnecessary procedures for reimbursements,” she explained, referring to the Bihar uterus scam.

Lobby at play

“Who forms our policies? There will be people like Mohandas Pai, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw who have vested interests who will sit at Knowledge Commissions. They will give colours of efficiency, quality and other big words in favour of private healthcare,” said Akhila.

A similar project in Udupi was opposed In November 2017.

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