Better late than never
IFP Editorial: The state also needs to read the positive suggestions and grievances aired in the social media and mainstream media, besides the hate mail or critical comments.
We do not wish to claim credit for two important decisions by the state, but we must say we had written about it in this space and suggested the same actions in the battle against the deadly pandemic. As early as May 11, we had flagged the issue of exorbitant rates of hospitalisation and treatment charged by the private hospitals and the need to cap the charges at an affordable rate.
While one is grateful to the private hospitals like Shija Hospitals, Raj Medicity and American Oncology Institute for opening its doors to Covid-19 patients of the state in these difficult times, it was the job of the state to make it affordable to the general public at large. The second opinion piece on May 18 was about the cremation rates of Covid-19 deaths as charged to the grieving families, which was simply prohibitive especially to the poor, and had suggested that the state should take over the cremation charges. There were two rates then. If the body is to be cremated in a common cremation ground at Minuthong by the Imphal Municipal Corporation, the family has to pay a sum of Rs 15,000. For cremation in a local crematorium, the family need to carry the expenses of all the materials to be used at the time of cremation and for IMC employees engaged in the cremation the family had to pay Rs 8,000.
It took five days for the government to swing into action and do away with the burden of cremation charges to the grieving family members, and it was much appreciated. After days of anxiety and turmoil at the hospital including costs, it was simply too much for poor families to dole out the costs of cremation. There was still the expense for rites of passage ceremonies to come, with no social contribution as had been the practice before the pandemic. We understand, the state has scarce resources and at present facing financial difficulties. But, something had to be done. After all, sections of people including ministers and MLAs are coming out to donate generously to the Chief Minister’s Covid-19 Fund. We also like to call the attention of the state to lacs of rupees collected by state police as fine for violation of SOPs and restrictions relating to the pandemic, as advertised in the local dailies every day. We also understand that the fines collected by police come under the revenue head and that police personnel are having sleepless nights as frontline warriors in the fight against the pandemic. Perhaps, there could be a way for transferring the fines collected to the Covid Fund.
The second act of capping the charges for treatment of Covid patients by private hospitals to ensure reasonable rates is widely appreciated, although it was a bit delayed. As per the order issued by the health department, the upper limit of charges for patients being treated at general or isolation ward, the maximum charges per day without oxygen support shall be Rs 3,000 while patients with oxygen support will be charged a maximum of Rs 5,000 per day. Covid patients receiving treatment at beds with High Dependency Unit (HDU) shall be charged with a maximum of Rs 7,000 per day. Charges for Covid patients receiving treatment at ICU beds without ventilator is Rs 8,000 per day while those receiving treatment with ventilator use at ICU beds shall be charged with a maximum of Rs 10, 000 per day.
Here, we would like to emphasise that the opinions that we give does not come out of the blue but it is generally reflective of the general mood among the public. We always look at the writing on the wall to feel the pulse of the general public and voice their concerns through the opinion columns.
Just as the old boys say, the media is the mirror of public opinion and expectations we feel it duty bound to air the same with a pinch of our suggestions, based on the assessment. The state also needs to read the positive suggestions and grievances aired in the social media and mainstream media, besides the hate mail or critical comments. If one is only concerned with the negative comments in the social media, the much-needed focus gets deflected towards punitive action while the public interest agenda is forgotten.