Funding treatments for civil servants abroad garner discontentment among Indian doctors


The Indian government has announced that civil service officers will be reimbursed for approved medical treatments they receive outside India. This move has led to calls of hypocrisy from doctors.


Earlier this month a notice from the Department of Personnel and Training specifies the benefit of medical treatment outside India to staff in the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), the Indian Police Service (IPS), and the Indian Forest Service (IFoS) as well as to their family members for various medical conditions including cardiovascular surgery, bone marrow transplant, and cancer. Also included in the package of treatments covered are high risk “microvascular and neurosurgery treatments at centres with extensive experience” and other “extremely complex ailments that can only be treated abroad and fall in the high risk category.”


Previously, such privileges were available only to Indian Foreign Services officers who were already posted abroad. The latest move, at a time when the Indian rupee is hovering around an all-time low compared with other foreign currencies and the country’s economic indicators are poor, is expected to come at great expense to the government.


Rakesh Biswas, professor of medicine at the People’s University of Bhopal, said that agreeing to pay for medical treatment outside India was an implicit admission on the part of the government of the poor quality of the healthcare system in India. “This is another example of how the powers that be are gleefully robbing the exchequer. The Indian exchequer can hope for nothing more and deserves nothing better,” he told the BMJ.


A government public health professional in West Bengal, who wished to remain anonymous, told the BMJ, “Such moves only highlight the [lack of] commitment of the government to developing the healthcare sector in India. On one hand we are talking of universal health coverage, and on the other hand high rank officials are being given permission to go abroad for treatment [at taxpayers’ expense]. Do the poor and the middle class not deserve [good] quality treatment at centres with extensive experiences when they have extremely complex ailments or they belong to the high risk category?”