Struggling patients in CMC, Vellore,  ask for CMAAY coverage for all

[ Amar Sangno ]

ITANAGAR, 27 Jul: In his 40’s, Bapolum Talampai, a native of Sunpura village, Lohit district has managed to gel well with local Tamils of Vellore. He had no choice but to adopt Vellore and its streets as his second home, ever since he was diagnosed with a malfunctioning kidney.

He has been waiting for cadaveric kidney transplantation in Christian Medical College (CMC) Vellore for the last eight and half years, as he does not have a donor. For the past four years, he is living all alone, managing household chores by himself at his rented room in Sarathinagar. As expenses doubled up, he was forced to send back his wife and relatives to their home in Tezu.

Bapolum undergoes haemodialysis (blood is pumped out of your body to an artificial kidney machine, and returned to your body by tubes that connect you to the machine) thrice a week. In a month he does it fourteen times which cost him around Rs. 36890/ per month. This excludes the haemoglobin injection at Rs. 1600 once a week, monthly blood investigation and medicines. By the end of the month, he spends up to Rs. sixty thousand.

He curses himself for suffering from an ailment that causes his family extra financial burden. Bapolum had exhausted all his resources that he could have gathered by selling his ancestral land and other valuable properties. Now he is surviving on the contributions by the family members.

“I have exhausted all my resources in the treatment. Now my transplantation turn has come but I do not have money for it” Bapolum says sharing his predicaments over the phone.

“People say a dialysis patient dies early. I am still alive and kicking. I am an example that there is hope for other patients undergoing the same treatment,” he says laughing.

The expenses incurred in the course of pre-and post-treatment is enough to send families in deep financial crisis.

“Peritoneal dialysis patients are suggested to do dialysis three times every day till they get transplantation. Post-transplant patients – after transplantation have to visit OPD three times weekly for two months followed by various weekly and monthly tests, shared a patient.

Ajad Singhi, another kidney patient from Seppa in East Kameng district has been living in a rented room that costs around Rs. Fifteen thousand per month at Miramman Kovii Street near Sarathinagar since the pandemic. Singhi is a post-transplant patient.

“The length of treatment makes us semi-citizens of Vellore. Imagine how we are managing our expenses all these years,” said Singhi on the financial burden each patient is facing.

Patients undergoing treatment in CMC Vellore have made a distress call to the government for making the health department’s Chief Minister Aarogya Arunachal Yojana (CMAAY) more flexible covering medicine, blood tests, dialysis, chemotherapy and OPD charges. They argue that making CMAAY more flexible would save people’s lives specially those suffering from various forms of cancer, kidney and heart ailments.

“CMAAY is only used here when you are admitted otherwise it has no use. I am diagnosed with cancer, for poor patient like me it is very difficult to afford medicine which are very costly,” says Gojen Migi while appealing for relaxation in CMAAY coverage. The health department’s popular CMAAY scheme has its own limitations. The scheme benefits only the inpatients in referral hospitals covering Rs. 5 lakh.

“All types of facilities including doctors’ consultation fee, hand gloves, syringes, operation charges, laboratory charges of both inpatients and outpatients must be covered under the CMAAY scheme. It provides financial assistance to only the inpatients,” he added.

Another patient has appealed to the state government to depute a dedicated officer or staff from the health department to CMC hospital to assist and guide the needy patients. The CMC being one of India finest medical colleges is flooded with patients from across India and from neighboring Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and gulf nations. Getting a doctor’s appointment is one of the hardest jobs in CMC.

“Two most important lifesaving issues which needs to be highlighted before the authorities for early redressal are coverage of dialysis patients (both peritoneal and haemodialysis) and post transplantation under CMAAY scheme,” the patient said.

The absence of the state guest house or subsidized accommodation has made the lives of already financially exhausted patients more difficult in Vellore. Non-air conditioned lodges charge Rs. 400 to Rs. 600 per night and rented room costs anywhere between Rs. 4000 to Rs. 20000/- depending on the facilities and furnishings. It is learnt that currently, more than 70 patients from Arunachal are undergoing treatment in CMC in various departments.

Considering the difficulties in finding affordable accommodation by the patients in CMC Vellore, late Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu had personally initiated and allocated Rs. 50 lakhs fund for procurement of land to build Arunachal guest house through the health department in 2007. The plot was supposed to be within walking distance of CMC Vellore. With the help of CMC Vellore Arunachal Patients Welfare Association, a plot measuring 4225 square feet was bought at Alamelu Magapuram, Vellore-9 in Smanathan Nagar area, which is at a distance of 4 kilometers from the hospital. Other than a protection wall and one security man deployed at the plot to prevent encroachment, no infrastructure has been built so far. With each passing day, the patients settling in Vellore for treatment are praying for early construction of the Arunachal guest house so that their money may be saved for medicines and other medical expenses.