Vikash Sharma

The menace of touts or brokers extorting money from patients in lieu of providing quick medical services in various hospitals in Odisha is rampant. This was again evident after 13 persons were arrested by Khandagiri police from the All India Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Bhubaneswar campus on Friday.

As per initial reports, all the 13 persons were allegedly looting money from patients and their attendants on promise of providing them tokens/ registration tickets which is a pre-requisite to seek medical services.

It is pertinent to mention here that a lot of patients from Odisha and other neighbouring states have to wait for long hours to days in queue to get registration tickets at AIIMS Bhubaneswar.

Senior officials said that Khandagiri police detained 20 persons on the charges of looting money from patients and their attendants as part of the ongoing special drive in the last two days. Subsequently, 13 of them were arrested after concrete evidences regarding their involvement came up during the investigation.

Senior police officials said that some of the accused arrested are from West Bengal and they were operating the racket with help of some local youths. They were charging Rs 4,000 to Rs 5,000 from the patients against registration and other assistance needed for seeking doctor's consultation easily. The mastermind of the racket is still absconding, said Dayanidhi Nayak, an official of Khandagiri police station.

"Similar middlemen were also caught in the past also. Many are selling tickets to patients coming from outside. We have decided to strengthen security and handover such persons to police," said AIIMS Bhubaneswar Director, Ashutosh Biswas.

Recently, the Odisha Health and Family Welfare Department (H&FW) directed all state-run medical colleges and hospitals to launch a crackdown on brokers or middlemen diverting patients to private clinics and hospitals from the Out Patient Departments (OPDs) of government hospitals across the State.

As per the directive, the state government had asked the faculties, treating doctors, paramedics, and other staff of the Government hospitals to remain alert and take immediate remedial measures upon noticing any such activity in the premises of Government hospitals.

Not only AIIMS Bhubaneswar, the allegations against middlemen or brokers looting money from patients were also received from SCB Medical College and Hospital in Cuttack and Berhampur MKCG in the past.

In April 2021, the Commissionerate police arrested six middlemen including four ambulance drivers on the charges of influencing and taking patients from SCB Medical College and Hospital to various other private clinics and hospitals in Cuttack.

Similarly, seven brokers were arrested from Berhampur MKCG on October 18 following a raid conducted by a police team led by Berhampur SP.

(Reported by Atulya Bout and Kapilendra Pradhan in Bhubaneswar)