Senior Congress leader and former minister Mohammad Ali Shabbir today demanded that the Telangana government make all the Covid-19 related medical facilities available for free to the people of the state.
In a media statement, the leader said, "Despite the alarming increase in the number of Covid-19 cases and fatalities, a majority of people are still reluctant about getting themselves tested. This is not due to fear, negligence or lack of awareness. It is primarily due to monetary reasons. Affordable testing facilities are available only at a limited number of government testing centres. At private healthcare institutions, the cost for one test is about Rs 800. Most people cannot afford to pay for such an expensive test. People are avoiding getting vaccinated for similar reasons as well."
"Our is a state where nearly 40 lakh people depend on the Aasra pension of Rs 2,000 per month. Further, the shortage of government testing and inoculation centres means that a majority of the public is dependent on private labs and hospitals. However, people are unable to bear the high costs of both testing and vaccination. For instance, if a family of five with mild symptoms wishes to get tested for Covid-19, then it will have to spend a total of Rs 4,000. Similarly, to get vaccinated at a private hospital, they will be forced to shell out about Rs 1,250. It is then clear to all why a majority of the public is avoiding getting tested and immunised. Therefore, the government should make both testing and vaccination services 100% free for all. It can then reimburse the costs to the hospitals later," he asserted.
Citing the government's recent decision to provide monetary assistance
of Rs 2,000 every month to the private school employees in the state, Shabbir Ali said that the people were in a position of great economic vulnerability where even the seemingly affordable costs of Rs 800 for testing and Rs 250 for vaccination were unaffordable to most.
He also alleged that a large number of private healthcare facilities were overcharging patients in the name of providing Covid-19 treatment, and flayed the TRS regime for its "failure" to monitor this "organised loot" by the hospitals.
"A high-level committee was constituted last year to investigate the complaints of the exorbitant prices being charged by private hospitals for Covid-19 treatment. However, against nearly 5,000 complaints lodged against such hospitals, action was taken in just a couple of cases. The hospitals were barred from providing treatment, but no penal action was taken against them for their extortion. With the increase
in the number of reported cases, the hospitals who were looting people last year have started to do so all over again," the Congress leader fumed.
"Seeing all this, I once again demand that the state government make testing, treatment and vaccination 100% free for every person of Telangana. Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao must review the situation on a daily basis and ensure that top priority is given to saving people's lives. No project or scheme can be more important than human lives and, therefore, the pandemic must be addressed first. The state and union governments should both do everything possible to save lives," he demanded.