Visitors or migrants who test positive for Covid-19 in Bengaluru are unable to avail of government-funded treatment due to a peculiar bureaucratic requirement, which is forcing them to shell out huge amounts of money for treatment at private hospitals.
Bengaluru residents who test positive are allocated a Bengaluru Urban (BU) district patient number if they are able to prove residency in the city with their Aadhaar card. The number enables them to get a bed from the government quota.
But those who are stranded in the city due to financial or other circumstances are denied the number, forcing them into what one Covid-19 patient described as a “Catch-22 situation”.
Bhargav (name changed), 36, a techie who recently moved to the city, found that he could not get a BU number after officials linked his test results to his Aadhaar card address in Indore, Madhya Pradesh. “Consequently, my patient ID was generated in Indore, which meant I could not get a government quota bed in Bengaluru,” he said.
Randeep D, Special Commissioner, BBMP, confirmed that out-of-district Aadhaar card addresses will prevent patients from being allocated BU numbers. “This can be circumvented by the patient securing a recommendation letter from the DC of their native district,” Randeep said.
However, Bhargav said that he could not leave the city to secure this letter because of his Covid-positive status. “The result was high hospital bill,” he added.
While Bhargav was able to pay, others are less fortunate. One is Peter (name changed), 51, a daily wage labourer, and a resident of Channapatna.
Involved in a road accident at Hunsur, Peter was initially admitted to a Mysuru hospital for severe head injuries. He was not identified as having Covid-19. When internal bleeding in the brain and stomach worsened, he was rushed to Bengaluru.
On October 28, two days after being admitted at St John’s Medical College, he was found to be Covid-positive.
“Because his Aadhaar card had his Ramanagara address, a patient ID was generated in Ramanagara (RMG7728). However, he could not be taken out of St John’s to go home because his condition was serious. At the same time, he did not qualify for a government bed in Bengaluru,” said his brother-in-law, Henry.
Another caretaker, Father Vincent Pereira, said their attempts to secure a recommendation letter from the Ramanagara DC office failed after an official said the letter had to be sanctioned before the patient is admitted. Dr Niranjan, Ramanagara District Health Officer, confirmed that letters are issued before admittance.
The BBMP said that Arogya Mitra officials stationed at Covid-care hospitals are supposed to facilitate the procurement of recommendation letters. Henry alleged that the official at St John’s had claimed ignorance of the matter. This official could not be contacted for comment.