Even after being entitled to medical attention, the number of people actually benefiting from the Employee’s State Insurance (ESI) scheme is less. Despite having the required documents, easy access to healthcare seems to be a distant dream for most deserving beneficiaries.
Sakamma is one such person. She was abandoned by her husband when her two daughters were growing up. Hailing from Sringeri, the 53-year-old coolie was denied medical care in the ESI hospital unless she paid under the table. She was diagnosed with a uterine prolapse and doctors advised the removal of the uterus. But when she approached the government hospital in Sringeri two months ago, authorities demanded `15,000, which was beyond her means. It forced her to seek treatment in Bangalore where her daughter Manjula, a tailor at Bommanahalli, was a beneficiary of the ESI scheme.
But disappointment followed here too as the Indira Nagar ESI Hospital gave her first aid to stop her bleeding but then neglected her. “The hospital wanted money but as I was entitled to free treatment, they neglected me. They kept me in the hospital for 10 days and gave silly reasons such as elections and infectious wards to delay the operation,” Sakamma told Express.
At this stage, Sakamma and her daughter decided to approach the Lokayukta and authorities considered calling Bowring and Lady Curzon Hospital. But Manjula insisted that her mother gets admitted into an ESI hospital as every month for 10 years straight, `180 was deducted from her salary of `6,500. Furthermore, by getting admitted through influence, she did not want to deny another needy person of medical attention. Syed Riyaz, Deputy Commissioner (PRO), Lokayukta, got Sakamma admitted into Rajajinagar’s ESI hospital where the operation was performed. Two weeks later, Sakamma was discharged.
“Because I was literate, I was able to read Lokayukta advertisements and approach them. There are so many educated people in the same situation but, do not want to seek help from Lokayukta because they feel it will affect them or their family in the future,” said Manjula, after her mother’s operation. She also expressed anxiety as she said, “My next problem would be encountering my husband who threatened to file a divorce as I was hardly at home and finding a cot for my mother to sleep on in my house.”
Speaking to Express about this incident, Lokayukta Justice Bhaskar Rao expressed regret and said, “It is the ESI corporation’s duty to provide healthcare. Those who are working in any organisation having more than 20 employees are bound by the ESI Act.” He described healthcare as a fundamental right and added that its denial is a violation of human rights. “We have done our part. Now, it’s your turn.”
He urged anyone coming across incidents like this to lodge a complaint with the National Human Rights Council.