CS told to explain delay in issuing Azadi Cards to elderly | #elderly | #seniors | #execrise
The Sindh High Court (SHC) has taken exception to the delay in making arrangements to issue Azadi Cards to the elderly in the province, and directed the chief secretary to appear in person to explain the delay.
Hearing a petition seeking the enforcement of a law under which the elderly will get a 25 per cent concession in medical treatment at private hospitals, an SHC division bench headed by Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar said that despite clear directions to the social welfare department, no steps have been taken to issue the health cards.
The bench said the court had directed the Sindh Senior Citizens Council chairman to convene a meeting and prepare a road map so that Azadi Cards could be issued expeditiously. However, observed the bench, neither have any arrangements been made by the National Database & Registration Authority (Nadra) nor have the health cards been issued by the secretary of the social welfare department.
The court said that in order to implement the Sindh Senior Citizens Welfare Act in letter and spirit, the most important aspect is to issue the health cards to the senior citizens residing in the province.
The social welfare secretary placed on record a copy of the letter issued by Nadra to the section officer of the social welfare department to show that in order to negotiate health cards with the Nadra website, the Nadra team was working on some project and its details were to be submitted to the department.
The bench said the court in its December 12, 2019 judgment had directed the CS to convene a meeting with the Nadra chief to make the necessary provision so that the requisite data might be supplied to the council to issue Azadi Cards.
The bench said the process of issuing health cards had to be undertaken within a month under Section 5(2)(d) of the Act but nothing had been done and the provincial government had once again requested further time, which was unjustified.
The bench said the director of the social welfare department had to frame the rules after convening the meeting but the exercise had not been carried out, which itself was also non-compliance with the court’s directives. The bench was informed that the draft rules are at the approval stage of the law department.
The Legal Aid Society had said in their petition that the Sindh Senior Citizens Welfare Act had been promulgated in 2014, and according to its Section 5(f), the Senior Citizens Council will provide free geriatric, medical and health services to the elderly with free medicines as provided by the respective government hospital medical officers and a 25 per cent concession at all private hospitals, medical centres and clinics.
The petitioner’s counsel said that during the prevalent pandemic, private hospitals have been overcharging Covid-19 patients, and it is very difficult for the patients, especially the elderly, to bear the medical expenses at private health facilities.
He said private hospitals have been exploiting the elderly and making a fortune out of their miseries by charging Rs50,000 to Rs150,000 a day for treatment in their general wards and intensive care units.
The lawyer said that due to the lack of cost regulation in the country, private hospitals have been capitalising on the plight of the patients, particularly the elderly, and making exorbitant profits.
He said the SHC had already ordered the enforcement and implementation of the Sindh Senior Citizens Welfare Act, and requested the court to direct the provincial government to ensure the implementation of the law, especially its Section 5(f).
The SHC had earlier directed the council to religiously and diligently perform all the functions for the implementation of various provisions of the law for the betterment and well-being of the elderly. The court had also directed the Sindh government in December 2019 to notify the rules within 45 days in accordance with Section 19 of the Act.