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Maharashtra revamps IPF scheme for free, discounted treatment

The state government has revamped the Indigent Patients’ Fund (IPF) scheme in a bid to bring transparency and ensure that poor patients get free/discounted treatment under it. A meeting was held recently between charitable hospitals from Pune and Mumbai to explain the entire process, however charitable hospitals in Pune are unhappy over the changes and a meeting is being held by them today to discuss the issue. The Association of Hospitals in Pune has said that the hospitals will soon send their demands to the government.

While the IPF scheme across Maharashtra will be monitored by the special help cell headed by Rameshwar Naik, district-level committees have been appointed in all districts helmed by the respective district collectors to monitor reserved beds and implementation of the IPF scheme at charitable hospitals.

As per the changes, the needy patients can now apply to charitable hospitals/Charity Commissionerate/medical colleges/special help centre/district collectors to avail the benefits of the scheme unlike earlier when they could only apply to charitable hospitals. The state-level special medical aid cell will verify the application and give final approval within 72 hours. An emergency treatment intimation (ETI) number will be given to emergency patients. The ETI number will be provided to the charitable hospitals for emergency patients (accidents/heart attacks). In such cases, hospitals must get the ETI number and approval within 48 hours of admitting patients.

A senior official said that reserved beds in charitable hospitals will be allocated randomly to poor and vulnerable patients through the state-level special help desk. This will reduce the pressure on select hospitals. Patients/relatives will receive an acknowledgement letter for provision of beds in the charity hospital through a link on their mobile phones, and the same letter will be sent to the institution from which the application has been received and also to the charitable hospital providing treatment.

Furthermore, after the letter is given to the patient, the state-level medical assistance unit will call the patient/relative and assist in admitting the patient to the hospital. Also, the charity hospital administration will be contacted regarding providing proper treatment to the patient. The staff will remain in touch with the patient till the latter is discharged. A helpline number, 1800 123 2211, has been created for the convenience of patients.

Naik told Hindustan Times that the decision has been taken by deputy chief minister, Devendra Fadnavis, to avoid inconvenience to patients and hospitals. It will prevent a situation where only a handful of charitable hospitals take the burden of the majority of poor patients. “Making the process digital will maintain transparency and accountability. We will soon appoint Aarogya Sevaks at the hospitals. The cell also has powers to take action against errant hospitals that are depriving needy patients of their right to treatment,” Naik said.

The scheme
There are 58 charitable hospitals in Pune, 74 in Mumbai, and 430 across the rest of Maharashtra. According to the Indigent Patients Fund (IPF) scheme framed by the Bombay High Court (HC) and rolled out in September 2006, all charitable hospitals in the state have to allocate 2% of their gross billing to help indigent or economically weak patients. This aid has to be in the form of free treatment to those with an annual income below ₹1.8 lakh and at 50% discounted billing to patients whose families’ annual income does not exceed ₹3.60 lakh. Hindustan Times

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