What are the key shortcomings of our nation’s free medical health scheme? The fact that there is low bed occupancy by children in private hospitals, glaring discrepancy between referral and admissions, and lack of data on the use of private hospital beds by children have been identified as major shortcomings of the Capital’s free healthcare scheme.

The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) on Friday released a report ‘Utilisation of free medical services by children belonging to the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) in private hospitals in the Capital’.

NCPCR member Dr. Vandana Prasad said, “All private hospitals registered under the Delhi Government and listed as being mandated to provide free treatment to the EWS in Delhi were contacted as part of the process. Additionally, Apollo Hospital and two large government hospitals catering to children — Kalawati Saran Children’s Hospital (KSCH) and Lok Nayak Jayaprakash Narayan Hospital (LNJP) — were also appraised in order to make comparisons”.

The reports that followed found that utilisation of EWS beds in private hospitals by children were very low in Delhi as compared to the vast numbers utilising public health facilities.

The report noted that the number of children admitted under EWS in the last year in the private hospitals (the 24 who responded) was 1,218; number admitted in government hospitals was 27,123 (KSCH) and 8,231 (LNJP) and Apollo had only 252.

“We also found that referral from government hospitals, especially to those hospitals that offer super-specialty services such as cancer treatment or cardiac treatment, were happening considerably well, potentially constituting up to 44 per cent of those admitted,” said Dr. Prasad.

Dr. Prasad also added saying, “However, glaring discrepancy between referral and admissions was observed — Apollo had 698 referrals and only 252 admissions, and Sir Ganga Ram Hospital had 150 referrals and 57 admissions. This finding raises concerns about continuity of care and seamless transitions for referred children and must be juxtaposed against very detailed directions by the court on procedures for and following referral”.

The NCPCR have submitted a further report to the Delhi government.

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