Only 3 out of 29 private doctors given benefit of PMGKP scheme, Maharashtra Government tells Bombay HC
Yossi Aloni

Only three of the total 29 private practitioners have been paid the insurance amount under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Package (PMGKP) till now, the Bombay High Court was informed on Wednesday. The HC was further told that since this is an "ongoing" scheme, no further category of doctors or health care workers can be added to claim benefit under this insurance scheme.

A bench of Justices Shahrukh Kathawalla and Riyaz Chagla while ordering the state to specify why the 26 other private doctors were denied the benefit under the scheme, reserved its judgment in the matter.

The judges were seized with a plea filed by a Navi Mumbai based woman seeking benefits under the scheme. She claimed that her husband, an Ayush doctor by profession died in June due to the deadly Covid-19 virus. She said that her husband got infected to the deadly virus while treating patients including those infected by the virus.

The New India Assurance Company Limited (NIACL) denied granting any insurance benefits claiming that her husband was a private practitioner and not a government employee.

This led the bench to summon the Union health ministry to spell out its stand on the issue.

Appearing for the Union government, additional solicitor general Anil Singh told the bench that since the woman's husband wasn't on Covid duty, nor was he ordered or asked to treat Covid patients in any government or private hospital requisitioned by the state or union government.

The ASG pointed out that only doctors and community healthcare workers, working in the frontlines and in direct contact of Covid patients have been covered under the said scheme.

"Other than the categories already covered under the scheme no other doctors could now be included for claiming benefits. Since the scheme is implemented through a nationalised bank, everything including the numbers of beneficiaries, categories etc was fixed. Thus, now no more categories of beneficiaries can be included," Singh pointed out.

A similar submission was made by assistant government pleader Kavita Solunke, who pointed out that the woman's husband was not treating Covid patients.

"Firstly, he was 56 year old at the relevant time so as per the time to time circulars, he wasn't allowed to treat any patients. Secondly, he did not treat Covid patients and was only operating in his clinic," Solunke argued.

To the contention of the deceased doctor's wife that her husband opened the clinic only after the Navi Mumbai civic chief ordered him to, Solunke said, "The circulars were issued at that time urging all private practitioners to open their clinics but that was not for Covid. The only intent was that the non-Covid patients too must get timely treatment."

The judges sought to know from Solunke as to on what grounds did the state denied benefits to the remaining 26 applications made by families of private doctors, who died of Covid. She has been asked to submit the forms of these doctors.

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