Healthcare in Kashmir has suffered a lot in the past one and a half year. When J&K’s special status was repealed in August last year, healthcare suffered as the region had to go through restrictions on movement and for many months, communication was restricted. Another blow to the valley’s healthcare was when COVID-19 took a large shape and it caused lockdowns across the nation.
Both of these crises have impacted access to healthcare in many ways. There were some troubles with the Ayushman Bharat scheme as officials performed a “cleaning” exercise to remove fraud accounts. Moreover, almost every hospital was filled with Covid cases and that caused problems to non-covid patients. Also, non-covid patients are avoiding to visit hospitals for fear of virus infecting them.
Doctors are afraid that patients are missing their treatment. Many patients have delayed for going to the hospital and some might even have died waiting for the time when conditions will be normal again.
Chronic kidney patients in Kashmir who were dependent on the Ayushman Bharat scheme for their treatment have suffered hugely. Khyber Hospital says that their cards were cancelled because they had been made fraudulently.
Waqas Ghani, a beneficiary of the scheme, questions that how these cards could be called fraudulent when he got them from the khidmat centres. Khidmat centres, or common service centres, were set up by the Jammu and Kashmir government’s information technology department and the Jammu and Kashmir Bank’s collaboration. These centres were developed to provide banking or single-window online services to rural areas.
The erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir benefitted heavily from the Ayushman Bharat scheme. More than half of the former state’s population owned a card within 90 days of its launch.
State health officials claim the cancellation of the cards was done as a part of anti-fraud drives undertaken during the Covid-19 lockdown. Qurshid Ahmad Khan, the medical officer in charge of the scheme in Jammu and Kashmir says that their focus was to ensure every needy person gets a card. Later administration noticed many cases where the wrong beneficiaries were added.
Khan said that in J&K, 12 lakh beneficiaries have received the cards while only half of them are eligible for it. He claims that most of the irregularities took place at the local khidmat centres, where many who got access to cards were not eligible. It has now been decided that all the cards which were issued under the scheme would now be linked to Aadhaar in order to avoid fraud.