In January 2017, the Madras High Court (Madurai Bench) had, on a writ petition filed by an activist J. Anand Raj, directed the State government to establish MRI facilities across all government headquarters hospitals.
However, the activist recently obtained information through the Right To Information (RTI) Act from the Tamil Nadu Medical Services Corporation (TNMSC) Limited, which showed that the government was yet to implement the court directive fully.
Only 11 out of the 46 government headquarters hospitals in the State have been provided with MRI facilities over the last three years, for which the government had spent 56 crore.
The activist said that the information furnished by the TNMSC showed that patients, who had taken scans at the MRI and CT facilities, had paid 264 crore over the last nine years. All the GHs had collected charges ranging from 500 to 1,000 for CT scans and 2,500 to 3,500 each for MRIs. Only those patients, whose annual income was less than 72,000, were covered under the Chief Ministers Health Insurance Scheme.
Mr. Anand Raj has since urged the government to provide MRI facilities at least in Usilampatti (Madurai district), Kovilpatti (Thoothukudi), Karaikudi (Sivaganga), Tenkasi (Tenkasi), Srivilliputtur (Virudhunagar), Periakulam (Theni) and Padmanabhapuram (Kanniyakumari district) hospitals before this fiscal year.
The doctors/radiologists in these hospitals said that due to the absence of MRI facilities, the patients had to travel at least 50 km to 100 km every time, for a scan. With the COVID-19 pandemic, when the government has been repeatedly telling people not to venture out, critical patients have had to travel long distances due to poor infrastructure, Mr. Anand Raj said.
According to him, though the CT scan facility was available at all the hospitals, it was not functioning 24x7 in many locations, forcing the patients to travel to other cities or to look for private scan centres. He suspected that the government was deliberately aiding private scan centres by not providing the facilities in government headquarters hospitals as directed by the court.
When The Hindu contacted a senior official at the Directorate of Medical and Rural Health Services, he acknowledged that there was a delay in installation of the equipment. However, he explained that the government cannot simply install the equipment and leave it there. We have to recruit people for the facility, fix the pay scale, give training to them to handle the devices and so on. It will take time. Today, the priority for the government is to fight COVID-19. All the left-out GHs will get MRI facilities in the next 18 months, he said.