Disabled brigadier dies awaiting medical reimbursement
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, February 15
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has proved to be the nemesis of a critically ill disabled brigadier. The officer died yesterday while waiting for the reimbursement of expenses incurred on his emergency treatment several years ago. Despite judicial orders three years ago, which were upheld by the Supreme Court, the MoD has been sitting on the case.
Owing to an in-service disability, an automated implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (AICD) was implanted on Brig TS Sekhon (retd) in 2003. It controls low as well as high heart rate and its wires and leads are connected to the heart. The device has a life of about four years. A surgery to replace the AICD and to remove the wires was not successful.
While on a visit to Germany to meet his daughter, the brigadier had a medical emergency. He was evacuated to a hospital where an emergency procedure was carried out to save his heart through a laser surgery and the wires were also removed.
It was certified by doctors that the procedure was an emergency procedure and it was also endorsed by doctors of the Army in India . The total cost incurred was Rs 5.56 lakh which, it was claimed, was much less than the treatment that would have cost in India . The Ex-servicemen Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS) provides for reimbursement in emergencies at the government hospital rates. Hence, Brigadier Sekhon applied for reimbursement.
Despite it being certified by the Indian and German doctors as a medical emergency, the claim was rejected by the MoD on the ground that he should have returned to India for the procedure and that the reimbursement of medical emergencies outside India was not permissible. The brigadier contested both the statements on the grounds that it was clear from the medical documents that it was an emergency and there was nothing in the ECHS policy which stated that emergencies outside India would not be reimbursed. The only stipulation in the policy was that in case of an emergency, only the rates as applicable to the AIIMS would be considered.
He moved the Chandigarh Bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal, which allowed his petition in February 2011 and directed the MoD to release the reimbursement at the rates at which the treatment would have cost in India . The Tribunal also quoted a Supreme Court (SC) judgment which provides that medical expenditure has to be released at the Indian rates even if an emergency has happened outside India .
The MoD did not implement the order despite no stay on it and appealed against it in the SC. Though the MoDís appeal was dismissed by the SC, his application for the execution of the orders kept getting adjourned by the Tribunal.