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Times Of India
18 June 2012

With help from doctors, they present charter of demands to the state govt

These days, 30–year–old Nallasopara resident Rashid Beg closely watches dollar rate fluctuations. Beg is not a foreign exchange dealer, but as a kidney failure patient, he undergoes dialysis twice a week and the cost of each dialysis session hinges on the US dollar rate.

Various equipment used for dialysis is imported and the higher the dollar rate, the more Beg has to shell out.

"Until recently, I spent Rs 1,600 for a dialysis session of which Rs 700 was the cost of the imported dialyser and tubings which can be reused for up to a month. The cost of this equipment has gone up to Rs 800 due to dollar rate fluctuations over the past six months," said Beg who has been undergoing the treatment twice a week since January 2010. "Besides, dialysis cost has gone up by another Rs 150 due to inflation."

A weaker rupee is pinching the pockets of kidney failure patients deep and hard, say medical experts. Over the last six months, the cost of dialysis has risen by at least 30 per cent. The increased dollar rate over the past few months is responsible, say the experts, as equipment used for the dialysis have to be imported.

It is this northward movement of the dollar vis–Ă  vis the rupee that has prompted patients like Beg and nephrologists (doctors specialising in treatment of kidney ailments) to hand over a charter of demands to the state government with a slew of suggestions just so that their treatment does not suffer due to funds.

Dr Umesh Khanna who is associated with Mumbai Kidney Foundation, a platform for patients having kidney failure, there are other taxes levied on the disposable equipment which further jack up the cost. "Until a year ago, the average cost for a dialysis session was less than Rs 700 and this included medicines and material. For the last six months or so, the dollar has pushed up cost of dialysis to at least Rs 900."

Besides the dollar, medical experts say that the cost further increases due to a 29 per cent levy on dialysis products which comprises custom duty, clearance, value–added tax and octroi.

Nisreen Ebrahim of Rangoonwala Foundation, a centre which works for kidney patients, says dialysis centres should be given tax rebate so that patients do not suffer.

Ebrahim said that the charter handed over to the state government lists 14 demands incorporated after factoring in practical difficulties faced by various patients. Some of the demands include that dialyser, tubings, medicines be made available through government health posts for free, government-funding for dialysis centres to ensure uniformity in rate at all centres, concessional travel by train and bus for patients due to burden of high treatment cost, access to compartments reserved for handicapped and cancer patients.

Rashid Beg, who spends at least Rs 1,600 for dialysis , keeps a close tab on the US dollar rate

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