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Gujarat health department red tape: Checked by private hospital, silicosis victims refused compensation

A silicosis victim in Khambhat
By Our Representative
Gujarat’s powerful health officialdom has created yet another hurdle in the payment of compensation to the victims of the deadly disease, silicosis. It has questioned the diagnosis of the disease by a privately-run reputed hospital operating in Anand district. This came to light in a strongly-worded representation made by the People’s Training and Research Centre’s (PTRC’s) Jagdish Patel to state health minister Nitin Patel.
The representation wonders whether the hospital in question, which tested these patients, is recognized by the state officialdom at all, and if yes, then why is its expert doctors’ diagnosis being questioned.
According to the representation, an outpatient department (OPD) of the Karamsad-based Pramukh Swami Medical College-cum-Shri Krishna Hospital has been in existence at the PTRC’s office of Shakarpur area in Khambhat taluka ever since 2007. Khambhat, and especially Shakrpur, is notorious for large number of silicosis cases, caused by polishing stones in tens of agate units.
Between 2007 and 2014, the expert doctors at the hospital’s OPD Shakrpur tested as many as 1,050 agate polishing workers, out of which 251 were found to be suffering from silicosis.
“Of these, 127 died of the deadly disease”, says Patel. The issue of “recognition” came up after the PTRC sent the names of 50 of those who had died to the district health office for compensation payable against the death due to silicosis.
Compensation was sought under the Gujarat government resolution dated September 5, 2014, which requires payment of Rs 1 lakh to the relatives of a worker who dies of silicosis. Following a nod by the district health office, the district labour office is forwarded the plea for payment.
“We have learnt that several of pleas for compensation have been rejected by the health officials on the ground that the patients were not tested by officials of government hospital and that their certificate is from Karamsad’s Shri Krishna Hospital”, Patel says.
Suggesting this is strange, Patel says, in 2012-13, the health officials had themselves checked the diagnosis of silicosis patients by the Karamsad hospital. He adds, “This time, however, the health officials have not checked out things either with those suffering from silicosis or with the Karmasad hospital.”
Patel wonders, “Does it mean that the Gujarat government believes the Karamsad’s doctors are incapable of diagnosing silicosis? Also, there is reason to ask, why has the state government not set up any facility for silicosis diagnosis in Khambhat taluka.”
Asking the Gujarat government to immediate act to work out a solution so that those who died because of silicosis are able to get the compensation payable to them, Patel says, “In Rajasthan, there is a clearcut guidelines for diagnosing silicosis by a medical board under each of the medical college. A permanent mechanism, why can’t it be operationalized in Gujarat, too?”

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