I met someone today. I'll call him Vishnu. He has been on dialysis for the last seven years. Like most other people, he has spent a fortune on his disease (a few lakhs). His parents died a few years back. He has a brother and a sister. Both don't feel the need to look after him.
Vishnu gets dialysis under the government's Aarogyasri scheme. He was all praise for the quality of dialysis offered at the Aarogyasri unit run by BBraun at Secunderabad's Gandhi Hospital. He said he used to get a lot of chills at other hospitals where he paid and got dialysis but after shifting to Gandhi Hospital, he has not had that problem. All patients get very good quality dialysis, the full four hours.
Vishnu now stays at a private Old Age home even though he is only 40 years old. There he is able to get the salt restricted diet he needs. He pays around Rs. 3,000 per month including food. He is now running out of money as he is unable to work. His Hemoglobin is 6 (a dialysis patient's should be between 11 and 12.5). He used to get Erythropoietin from the Aarogyasri unit. However, it has stopped for the past few weeks. He does not get iron injections, something necessary to get his blood counts up. He used to work as an accountant at an office but had to discontinue due to his health.
Vishnu wonders why he has to pay the full fee for the bus pass when he travels to the dialysis unit when patients having other ailments get a huge discount. Ditto for blood from the Red Cross. Thalassemia patients apparently get blood at highly subsidized rates from the Red Cross. Why can't the Red Cross provide blood at the same rates to hemodialysis patients? Medicines are another pain point. Aarogyasri does not cover the medicines a dialysis patient has to take. They have to buy these medicines from pharmacies and these can be very expensive.
There is absolutely no doubt that the govenrment's Aarogyasri scheme is a revolutionary scheme and that such a scheme exists in today's India mired in corruption scandals of increasing shamelessness is a miracle. Yes, the poor can now get dialysis. But, how will they get to the center? Yes, the government is doing an excellent job in providing dialysis and preventing thousands from dying. Please also do something about their other basic needs. This will not be a huge burden for sure. But it will help people lead lives that bear some semblance to normalcy.