ECHS riddled with many drawbacks

THE Ex-Servicemen Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS) is riddled with many drawbacks. Are the 216 polyclinics in the country providing proper medical succour to the ex-servicemen? Most of them cannot travel far and wide to these clinics, located in towns and cities.

The problem is, an 80-year-old veteran has to be escorted to a clinic by a relative. After a long wait, the veteran will be referred to the nearest Military Hospital (MH); his admission there will be subject to the availability of a spare bed. While outdoor patients would get a look in, those requiring hospitalisation bear the maximum brunt. How many MHs do we have when thousands of ex-servicemen retire every year?

The polyclinics came up following the AMC doctors’ failure to cope with the workload at the MHs. These clinics were meant to be self-sufficient in basic medical treatment, upward referral and, of course, medicines. We need more polyclinics with well defined powers and jurisdiction, the best of qualified doctors, and a direct referral by these polyclinics to the dedicated empanelled civil hospital, in tune with the patient’s disease.

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Why cannot a heart patient be taken directly to the civil facility to which he is entitled? Do written instructions exist with the polyclinics for a direct referral without having to go through the MH or a larger military facility?

Do the empanelled hospitals have clear admission guidelines if an ECHS authorised medical case turns up? The authorities are concerned that the veterans are running up huge bills for treatment through these civilian facilities. But is that not for the MoD or the Director-Generals of the Health Services of the Army, Navy and Air Force and the respective Chiefs to sort out with the Union Health Minister and the private hospitals’ owners?

In serious cases, red tape in timely referral could kill a patient on the road. A patient cannot first travel to a polyclinic, then to a MH, and then referred back to the polyclinic who will then refer him or her to the civilian facility. We need adequate well equipped polyclinics with monetary powers for prompt and direct referral to an empanelled civilian facility and a well defined command and control with the nearest MH.

If this is not possible, it is better to disband the ECHS system and revive the earlier MH system which kept referring serious cases to larger civilian facilities that were better equipped to handle such emergencies.

Maj-Gen HIMMAT SINGH GILL (retd), Chandigarh


The recent instructions issued by the MD, ECHS, Army Headquarters, New Delhi regarding admission of ex-servicemen to empanelled hospitals is nothing short of harassing them. No such conditions were there when ex-servicemen were offered this scheme in which an individual was to pay between Rs 4,000 and Rs 18,000 depending upon his rank.

After collecting hundreds of crores of rupees from the members, their treatment at the empanelled hospitals has been made ambiguous. This is nothing but breach of trust. Strangely, ex-servicemen, who are otherwise entitled to free treatment, are being harassed despite the ECHS. The new instructions should be withdrawn immediately.

Major NARINDER SINGH JALLO (retd), Mohali


Make labour courts work

THE Labour courts are presided over by the Additional District and Session Judges appointed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court. As the Punjab Government has failed to provide basic facilities and infrastructure to these courts, the High Court, vide its orders on March 17, 2006, has withdrawn its judicial officers from the Labour Courts of Patiala, Jalandhar and Bathinda. This despite the fact that these courts have jurisdiction over 70 per cent of the area of Punjab in 11 districts.

The withdrawal of judicial officers has paralysed the work completely. At present, about 4,600 cases are pending before the Labour Court at Patiala alone. As a result, both litigants and their representatives are suffering immensely.

I appeal to the Chief Minister to intervene and restore the functioning of the labour courts. The state government should provide proper building staff and other infrastructural facilities to restore the working of the courts.

ANIL SOOD, Advocate, Patiala

Helping war veterans

The government in Haryana has rightly increased financial assistance of those World War II veterans who are not getting any pension from Rs 500 to Rs 800 a month. The British assured Mahatma Gandhi and other Indian leaders that if Allied Forces win World War II, then India would be a free nation.

Then, Mahatma Gandhi called on the Indian Army to fight for India. They fought bravely for this cause, got injured and thrown out of service without pension. So the war veterans deserve this increase, perhaps much more.

SATENDRA SINGH, Kamod (Bhiwani)

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