COVID care service providers unpaid in Andhra Pradesh; decry government apathy

Vijayawada, Aug 25 (KMS): Funds-starved Andhra Pradesh government in India has not cleared bills worth several crores of rupees to service providers like food, face masks, sanitisers, medical oxygen, diagnostic labs and even wages to health staff working on contract basis at Covid care centres and Covid hospitals in the state.

When the daily caseload of coronavirus infections peaked during the second wave, the state government roped in private hospitals and designated them as Covid hospitals and Covid care centres to provide treatment to both the infected and suspected patients. As a majority of the government hospitals are designated as Covid hospitals, patients were given all care by the state government.

However, the trouble lies with Covid care centres which are entrusted with the task of taking care of patients suffering from mild symptoms of Covid or suspect cases of Covid by roping in private diagnostics centres to conduct a series of tests to find out the reasons for their health issues in places where government testing facilities are not available. The centres availed the services of suppliers of food to give nutritious meals to persons under their care. They were also provided with face masks, sanitisers, hand gloves and other items to avoid spread of the virus in addition to arranging medical oxygen in both Covid hospitals and Covid care centres.

The service providers who include even petty businesspersons said some of them even borrowed money to provide a series of services with an expectation that they would get back money from the government but to no avail so far. A section of suppliers of medical oxygen to both Covid hospitals and also to Covid care centres based on requirement, are also facing the problem of pending bills with no payment.

According to an estimate, bills for various services and also for wages to contract workers worth Rs 130 crore, with each district having bills of Rs 10 crore on an average, are pending for payment.

The service providers have made a fervent appeal to the state government to clear their bills and release the amount so that they will be ready to provide similar services again to help the state face the imminent third wave of Coronavirus pandemic efficiently.

A senior functionary of Indian Medical Association said, “We are facing immense pressure from the service providers to talk to the government authorities to clear the pending bills as they are facing severe financial hardships even to take up their regular services for want of money to invest. We want to bring it to the notice of the Chief Minister seeking his intervention to clear the bills.”

A district medical and health officer said, “We have cleared all bills including those to purchase even tooth brushes, with an exception for one or two bills pending and uploaded on the CFMS portal. But we are getting the response of ‘waiting for funds clearance,’ which means there is no cash reserve in our head of account to credit the amount in the bank accounts of service providers.”

Andhra Pradesh Hospitals and Nursing Homes Association general secretary Dr P. Srinivas said, “We have been asking the state health authorities to conduct a meeting of state level advisory committee comprising 14 members to discuss and resolve such issues but to no avail. It is better for the state government to take up Covid care completely to avoid problems like delayed payment to the private service providers.”

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