INDIA. Mumbai: While the Union Government has said that an insurance scheme for dependents of the Corona warriors who lost their lives to COVID-19 whilst on duty, will be concluded on April 24 and new dispensation will be provided, the absence of information about the beneficiaries of the original scheme, has created confusion.
The Union Health Ministry recently announced that claims under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Package (PMGKP) insurance policy will be settled till April 24 and thereafter a fresh insurance policy for COVID-19 warriors will be brought in.
Under the PMGKP, a compensation of Rs 50 lakh was announced to the next of the kin of those who die on COVID-19 duty. The scheme was launched to provide a safety net for healthcare workers to ensure that in case of any adversity due to the coronavirus pandemic, their families are taken care of.
The circular sent out by the health ministry stated that the insurance scheme has concluded on March 24 and 287 claims were processed under it. The ministry also said that the new dispensation will be provided to cover the Corona Warriors, for which the ministry is in talks with the New India Assurance company.
But according to the Indian Medical Association (IMA), at least 756 doctors died due to the
COVID-19 virus in the last one year and the list of the deceased was submitted to the health ministry by them. But the ministry neither gave the names of the beneficiaries nor published them on its website.
In a letter dated April 19, 2021, sent to Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan, IMA National President Dr. J A Jayalal and IMA Honorary Secretary-General Dr. Jayesh M Lele stated that only 168 out of the 756 modern medicine doctors who had sacrificed their life, could reach out to the benefits under the insurance scheme.
“Indeed, there is an apparent delay from the families to seek help as most of them are shattered and engulfed in the procedural difficulties like getting the legal heir certificates, the death certificates showing the actual cause of death and the certificates of authenticity to prove that they have worked in COVID-19 health care centres. Many applications are still stacked up in Joint Directorates of their districts”,IMA stated.
In response to the list of “martyred doctors” submitted by IMA, the Central Bureau of health intelligence(CBHI), a wing of the Directorate General of Health Services in the Health Ministry, has taken up the responsibility to trace and verify the list of martyrs. As such once the verification is done by CBHI, the next of the kin of the deceased should be authorized to receive the benefits of the PMGKP directly.
As the pandemic second wave is spreading, the WHO has warned that 14% of health care professionals are likely to be infected and the mortality among them is much more than the general public. As such this insurance option should be made user-friendly. There is a growing shortage of doctors as they are overworked and stressed out. As such it is the responsibility of the Government to keep their morale high with adequate care and open-minded support. The existing PMGKP insurance scheme should be extended by another 6 months. Besides, the procedural bottlenecks should be reduced to ensure that the health care professionals are recognized as martyrs and adequately compensated for their dedicated services, IMA stated.
The PMGKP: insurance scheme announced by Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on March 26, 2020, was implemented initially for 90 days and was later extended for a year. Then it was extended till March 24, 2021. The scheme also covered workers in the private sector.
It may be recalled that after the first death of a 76-year-old man in Gulbarga, Karnataka on March 10, 2020, Dr. Shatrugun Panjwani(62), a physician from Indore in Madhya Pradesh, became the first doctor to pass away due to coronavirus on April 08, 2020, in the country. Within the next two to three months, nearly 100 doctors succumbed. Maharashtra topped the list of doctors’ death followed by Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Delhi, Andhra Pradesh, Meghalaya, and J & K Then the list of fatalities went on growing.