Published: 04th December 2019
Will JNU students be forced to pay for health care from next year?
The staff at the health centre said that there has been no such communication from the administration. Funds might be late but will arrive soon
Public universities in India provide for their students' basic health care needs — free of cost. The Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) is no exception. But students complain that the health centre is running on skeletal staff and most of the doctors employed on a contractual basis are not very competent either. The big question is whether the cash crunch that is allegedly the root of the fee hike, would compel students to pay for this existing skeletal healthcare?
The permanent staff at the University Health Centre (UHC) said that there has been no such communication from the administration. But the doctors working at the UHC on contract — almost seven of them — are afraid that their contracts won't be renewed as it is supposed to in January. Moreover, they also fear that the cash crunch might result in no more free medicines for students. But internal sources reported that any such assumption would be baseless. "Funds are sometimes delayed but they will arrive. There has been no such notice from the administration that says that there will be a fund cut or that the contracts won't be renewed," said the source.
But the fact that the medical facilities provided are not up to the mark is undeniable said students across the campus. "The doctors refer us to the Safdarjung Hospital or sometimes to AIIMS even for a small cut or slight fever. A student has to wait for hours at the OPD there to get treatment. The UHC should have the basic amenities to tend to a patient when they come in," said JNU Students' Union General Secretary Satish Chandra Yadav. "The doctors here have also requested the UGC to let them be open 24 hours as well," he added.
Medicines are supposed to be provided free of cost to students and retired employees from the pharmacy of the UHC as per University rule
Shubham Goswami, a student of JNU and a member of students' organisation BASO visited the UHC a few days ago and found out that the doctors working there on contract-basis have not been paid since October. "Most of the time the UHC does not have medicines. They refer us to a private chemist's nearby and the administration reimburses. The treatment here too is sub-standard. They do not tend to us if it is anything more than a cough. They refer us to AIIMS or Safdarjung Hospital straight away," he said. "The number of ambulances are also ridiculously low. Two for the entire population inside on campus — more than 10,000," he added.
The UHC has specialists as well. Consultations with the specialists in Internal Medicine, Psychiatry, ENT, Ophthalmology, Dentistry, Skin, Orthopedic, Cardiology are available on scheduled dates. Laboratory facility provides a spectrum of routinely available Hematological, Biochemical and Microbiology tests. Satish added that even though facilities are skeletal it helps students get a preliminary check-up done for low cost and it is hassle-free. "If they stop this too then it would be a burden to go to avail healthcare as well. A doctor's visit now costs Rs 300 at a private hospital," said the General Secretary. "If they can't make the UHC better they should at least try to maintain it," he added. He also made it clear that there has been no fund cut for healthcare as of yet.
It's not just the students and employees. The immediate families (wife and children only) of married students can also avail of such medical facilities that are available at the UHC on payment of medical fees for the family. They are provided with medicines which are available in the Health Centre. The student may contact the Health Centre to get further information. In case of spouse of female student medical facility is provided up to the age of 25 years or till they start earning, whichever may be earlier. When the UHC is not open, all the patients are advised to go to the government hospital or any other hospital. No reimbursement is permissible for students as per UGC norms.
The UHC started working as a healthcare unit in 1973 for students. Soon, the facilities were extended to people who are residing on campus as well — employees and their immediate family. The Dean of Students heads the department. The staff of the University Health Centre (UHC) comprises of CMO (SAG), I/C Health Centre and Medical Officer, part-time doctors for General OPD, specialists, a Homoeopathic physician, a nurse, pharmacists, a Senior Technical Assistant, a Technical Assistant and other support staff. They function under the overall supervision and administrative control of the Chief Medical Officer (SAG), I/C Health Centre. It also has staff for control of mosquito-borne-disease.