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    Acute Encephalitis Syndrome: Only 36 make use of Ayushman Bharat

    Synopsis

    Bihar government made encephalitis treatment free in healthcare facilities on June 18.

    ET Bureau
    NEW DELHI: The outbreak of acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) in Bihar, which has claimed 140 lives, has revealed that only 36 patients with encephalitis were admitted in government and private hospitals through Ayushman Bharat till mid-June, according to National Health Authority (NHA).

    Bihar government made encephalitis treatment free in healthcare facilities on June 18.

    Bihar government's data has also shown that two-thirds of the people afflicted by AES belonged to below poverty line households, who are the targeted beneficiaries of Ayushman Bharat. Muzaffarpur district, which reported maximum AES cases, has only 18 public hospitals and 10 private ones empanelled for the scheme, according to NHA which implements Ayushman Bharat.

    The number of AES patients who utilised the scheme were just 36. NHA attributed it to the state government offering free treatment for AES.

    “There was no motivation for either patient or hospital to go through Ayushman Bharat as the Bihar government had made treatment free,” National Health Authority CEO Indu Bhushan told ET. However, AES patients were in hospitals by May end and their numbers peaked by June, when temperatures soared, whereas free treatment was declared only on June 18. With only few beneficiaries using Ayushman Bharat, NHA wrote to the Bihar government on June 17 to remind that AES was covered by the scheme. “While Bihar is already taking action to curb the disease, we urge the State Health Agency to ensure that patients suffering from such diseases are able to avail of PMJAY services. Please note that Ayushman Bharat covers treatment for AES and viral encephalitis as part of its medical packages,” NHA deputy CEO Dinesh Arora said in his letter to his state counterpart Sangma Chuba Ao, with a copy marked to Bihar principal secretary (health) Sanjay Kumar. NHA even put out messages to generate awareness about the scheme, packages and private hospitals empanelled to treat viral diseases when AES cases peaked.

    The messages also gave names of 3 hospitals in Muzaffarpur and 3in Sitamarhi which were equipped to handle AES cases and were empanelled for Ayushman Bharat.NHA statistics show that Bihar has only 84 empanelled hospitals. Though 500 odd hospitals had sought Ayushman Bharat empanelment, not even 20% met mandatory criteria. “We have set criteria for empanelling hospitals. Over 500 hospitals in Bihar had applied, but we found that they lacked medical facilities and even features like fire safety measures,” Bhushan said. An email questionnaire ET sent to health minister Harsh Vardhan went unanswered.

    NHA plans to rope in the private sector to open more hospitals in tier 2 and 3 cities. “Our scheme will incentivise opening of healthcare facilities in smaller cities,” said Bhushan. Since there is no capacity to pay for health services, the private sector has not ventured into smaller cities. With Ayushman Bharat promising assured payments, demand would be created, said another NHA official.
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