(FOLLOWING IS THE RE-PRODUCTION OF NEWS ITEM APPEARED IN THE TIMES OF INDIA OF DECEMBER 22, 19998)
SC NOTIC TO CENTRE ON PESI0NERS' HEALTH CARE(AS APPEARED IN TIMES OF INDIA DATED DATED DECEMBER 22, 1998)
The Supreme Court has issued notice to the Centre on a pettition seeking its finality on a curcial issue affecting every retired government emloyee needing emergency medical care.
The issue has been raised by former Union Goverment additional health secretary, K.P. Singh. He has said due to government's "oppressive", order rerquiring its employees, including pensioners, to obtain prior sanction before seeking specialised treatment in emergency, like heart attacks, had caused grave hardships to the needy.
The Supreme Court, which has already ruled that the government is under a consitutional obliation to provide free health care to the employee including retired personnel, has asked the Union Health Secretary to explain government's stand soon.
Petitioner's counsel, Santosh Singh said in June last year the government issued the office memorandum, which he said, was in violatopm of Articles 14 and 21` of the Constitution.
The office memorandum says :"In case of a medical emergency, the details of which shall be recorded by the chief medical officer of government dispensary, the CMO may directly refer the CGHS beneficiary to a private recogized hospital for further management of treatment.
The effect of this memorandum is that if a Central government pensioner directly goes to the recognised hospital, he has to pay for the hospitalisation and later seek reimbursement from the CGHS directly on a modified form, which is not available anywhere.
With the result, the petition said, the ailing pensioner can never get reimbursement of the expenditure incurred on the medical care. It means "total denial of medical faciities".
In its earlier land-mark verdict the apex court had said the government was duty bound to bear the entire expenditure on heart surgery and hosptal or hotel expenses incurred by its ailing staff including pensioners.
"It is now settled that right to health is an integral to right to life." said the court while dismissing the Punjab government's appeal. The state government challenged the high court's directive to reimburse the room charges besides medical expenses to its two employees who had undergone heart surgery at the AIIMs ad Escort Institutes.
Enlarging the scope of Article 21 (right to life) , the court had said when specialised treatment was not available in the government hospitals and the medical board reommended that an employee should take treatment at the authorised hospitals.necessaily the expenses on room rent as an in-patient were "integral part for the treatment".
In case in-patient facility was not available in a specialised hospital and the patient had to stay in a hotel while undergoing the treatment, the court had sad, the expenses incurred on hotel room chsrges would be inegral part of the expenditure incurred towards the treatment.
"If the government servant has suffered an ailment which requires treatment at a specialised approved hospital, it is but the duty of the State to bear the expenditure incurred by the employee" said the court.
Mote: The above verdict is too relevant in the light of new medical policy of ONGC for the retired employees. It is undisputed that Central Government Medical Attedance Rules satutorily apply on ONGC. Specific orders of goverment and ONGC to this effect exist.