ECHS - Treatment Anytime, Anywhere Without Referral

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Ex-Servicemen Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS) is a great initiative by The Ministry of DefenceGovernment of India but it’s time to make certain changes for the betterment of our bravehearts. 

Even though the government has taken steps to ensure the well being of Ex-Servicemen, it needs to constantly update its services to make life a little easier for Ex-Servicemen. ECHS card holders face a lot of problems even in their daily operations due to the unavailability of doctors as well as fewer ECHS poly-clinic in all districts. Be it the unavailability of Doctors or medicines which in majority of cases are either out of stock, or unavailable. 

I am a resident of Bihar and have spent 26 years of my live serving my country. I retired with 30% disability and soon as age started to show its sign, got various other conditions. One of the conditions was swelling and pain in my knee joints which restricted my daily activity. I tried pain medication but after feeling no relief, decided to get a thorough check-up and treatment done via ECHS.

The nearest ECHS from my house is located more than 60 km away and in order to reach there, transportation options are limited and time restricted. I visited ECHS Chhapra and was referred to Patna for treatment so I went to Ruban Memorial Hospital, Patna. As the treatment continued; I saw no signs of improvent but instead started having complications due to the medicines. After a few months, I went back to ECHS Chhapra and requested for a new referral and then went to  Paras Hospital, Patna for the treatment. The treatment again showed no signs of improvement. With a bad knee and limited public transport options, I decided that it would be better if I went to Delhi; I would have to travel less for frequent visit and would also get a better care as my son stays there. I got a referral from ECHS Chhapra to ECHS Lodi Road, New Delhi and carried forward my treatment there. After a couple of visits to the ECHS Empanelled Fortis Hospital, the doctor prescribed me a course of medication for 30 days and asked me to follow up after that. When I went to get my prescribed medicines from ECHS Lodi Road, I was given substitute medicines and that too only for 10 days. When I asked why the medicines were given only for 10 days, I was told that I could only be given medicines for 10 days and in order to get more, I would have to go back to ECHS Chhapra to get the full course of medicines.

I raised the issue that if I have to again visit the doctor in 30 days to report my progress or discomforts regarding the treatment, going back to Chhapra just for medicines did not seemed like a good idea, specially with a bad knee, which restricted my movements. I also suggested that a mail can be sent to ECHS Chhapra regarding the medicines and upon recieving a responsem the full dose of mediciation could be provided by ECHS Lodi Road. The only response I received from the officials was that they are not allowed to give medicines for more than 10 days.

This response made me sad, because we join the forces to protect the country and in doing so put our lives on the line. When we retire and come back, we have to keep hustling even for the smallest of tasks, from pensions to getting medical treatment, we are made to work even harder than before with weaker bodies and even weaker determinations. After more than 9 months of visiting doctors and getting referrals, I am still struggling with my knee. As a last resort I am forced to opt for private hospitals. 

Even after sending mail and numerous phone calls, one has to go manually and ask the person in-charge to provide referral and other documents. In this Digital Era where even private hospitals are following paperless operations, ECHS centers that already have a digitized database are still using age old methods which require manually visiting the centers, which in majority of cases is troublesome for the Ex-servicemen. 

Ex-Service men and their dependents who are not settled in there domicile state are asked to get referral documents from their domicile state which becomes a huge task especially if they are not in a good condition physically or monetarily.

Keeping all these problems in mind, I would request the MD of ECHS, MAJ GEN JV PRASAD to bring forth a change where an ECHS card holder can get treated in any ECHS Empanelled hospital in the country, without any referral by presenting their ECHS cards only and can be provided medicines too.