Chandigarh, February 15
Jalandhar in Punjab and Ambala in Haryana are among eight cities across the country where dedicated hospitals for defence veterans are proposed to be established under the aegis of the Ex-Servicemen Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS).
Both the states have a large population of ex-servicemen. The strength of registered ex-servicemen in Punjab is 3,27,212, according to data placed in Parliament by the Ministry of Defence on February 3. Haryana has 1,66,279 registered ex-servicemen.
The other places where veterans’ hospitals are expected to come up are New Delhi, Dehradun, Bareilly, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai, Jalandhar and Dehradun. These hospitals will be established with private partnership with funding under corporate social responsibility initiatives.
Under the scheme, 200-300-bed hospitals will come up. The infrastructure would be developed and the facilities managed and operated by private agencies on defence land. Civilian patients may also be catered to at these hospitals.
Launched in 2003, the ECHS provides cashless medical treatment to ex-servicemen, their entitled dependents and some other entitled categories through a nationwide network of polyclinics run by it along with a large number of empanelled private hospitals and diagnostic facilities.
It has a subscriber base of over 45 lakh beneficiaries across the country, which includes spouses and in some cases wards or parents of ex-servicemen. The hospitals are being set up in places that have a significant ex-servicemen population and adequate support base in the form of private medicare facilities is available.
ECHS has, in the past, faced problems of funding and availability of medicines at polyclinics. At times, the budgetary allocation by the central government has been less than the projections. There have also been issues relating to bills submitted by empanelled hospitals.
The Defence Budget for 2023-24, however, registers a notable increase of 52 per cent in the allotment for ECHS, with allocation of Rs 5,431.56 crore against Rs 3,582.51 crore in 2022-23.
For serving Armed Forces personnel and their dependents, a vast and structured medicare establishment under the Directorate General of Medical Services exists, ranging from medical inspection rooms providing basic treatment at the unit level up to tertiary hospitals at the national level.
Prior to the ECHS coming up, ex-servicemen were availing treatment at military hospitals. ECHS was conceived to reduce the workload on service hospitals and also to provide medical facilities to ex-servicemen at more convenient places.
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