Worrying about hospital bills was the last thing in the mind of Vijaya Patil (name changed)- a corona warrior attached to the health department of the Mira Bhayandar Municipal Corporation (MBMC) when she needed a surgery costing Rs.70,00 at a private hospital. The reason, Patil was dependent on the health insurance cover provided by the civic body. However, she and her family were shocked to learn that her policy was in lapse mode for the past four-month owing to non-renewal of the medical policy. Patil is not alone; she is amongst hundreds of municipal employees who are on the frontline in the battle against the deadly Covid-19 pandemic.
Boasting an annual budget amounting to more than Rs. 2100 crore, the civic administration has yet again failed to renew the cashless medical insurance policy worth Rs. 2 lakh each of its employees since December-2020.
While several health workers have tested positive for the infection while being on the frontline in the battle against Covid-19, most of them had to be admitted to private hospitals for treatment. To the shock and dismay of workers and union leaders, the resolution seeking BJP-led standing committees nod for renewal has mysteriously failed to find a place in the agendas of two consecutive meetings.
“The resolution could not be tabled as it came up before the committee at the eleventh hour. However, the welfare of staffers is our priority and proposal of renewal will be duly cleared in the upcoming meeting,” said BJP's standing committee chief- Dinesh Jain.
While deputy civic chief- Vijay Mashaal remained unavailable for his comments, Kamgaar Sena leader Govind Parab said, “Despite our requests, delay in renewals leading to policy lapses has become an annual ritual for the administration and the ruling governance. This year the proposal was sent on 30 April.”
Presently, MBMC’s staff strength is above 1,500. However, the worst affected are the 700-odd class IV workers-mostly from the sanitation and health department who are prone to illness owing to the hazardous nature of their job. As a stop-gap arrangement, employees are supposed to foot medical expenses from their own pocket which is later reimbursed by the civic body, albeit after approval from the district civil surgeon- which according to MBMC personnel was a herculean task.