February 11, 2010

Clean up act or hand over ESI hospitals, Centre to tell states

After repeated reminders to state governments to tone up ESI hospitals, the Centre is set to send out a strong message to them to either infuse efficiency in these facilities or hand them over to the Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (ESIC).

On the eve of the state labour ministers’ meet convened by it here on Friday to review the performance of various central schemes and initiatives, Union Labour Minister Mallikarjun Kharge said several ESI hospitals were in a “very bad shape” because of the shortage of doctors and lack of medicines and equipment. There are over 120 ESI hospitals across the country.

“While the Centre bears 87.5 per cent of the operational cost, the administration of these hospitals lies with the states. We are not satisfied with the situation. Our view is that either you run these hospitals properly or hand them over to the ESIC,” he said.

Sources said the occupancy rates in around 30 of the 120-odd hospitals are below 30 per cent. Only a handful has more than 80 per cent occupancy rates. The total number of beneficiaries eligible for medical care under the ESIC scheme is over five crore. “We are prepared to take over these hospitals,” Labour Secretary P C Chaturvedi said.

The agenda for the meeting circulated by the Labour Ministry points out that a large number of posts in these hospitals are lying vacant, hampering delivery of medical care services resulting in dissatisfaction among the beneficiaries, and notes that many of the states are not able to procure the equipment sanctioned by the corporation while purchase of drugs is irregular resulting in non availability of drugs.

“Due to non availability of drugs, patients are required to purchase drugs from the market and their medical reimbursement bills are delayed. This is the main cause of complaints regarding delivery of medical care to the insured persons,” the agenda said.

Sources said Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Meghalaya have already given their consent to the Centre to take over administration of ESI hospitals in their states.

The Centre is also likely to ask the states to pull up their socks in implementing various schemes formulated by it, particularly upgradation of Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs). It is noticed that delay in release of funds and under utilisation of funds are slowing down the programme aimed at modernising 500 ITIs.

Sources said utilisation of funds for upgrading 1,396 Government ITIs in the Public Private Partnership mode, a scheme launched three years ago, is also not satisfactory. While just two months are left for this fiscal to end, many of the state governments have not yet sent proposals of ITIs to be covered in 2009-10. “Out of 300 ITIs to be covered only 155 proposals have been received so far,” said an official.

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