Chief Minister

Ambitious project for rural healthcare in West Bengal

The Mamata Banerjee government has initiated an ambitious project to bring specialised health care to rural Bengal, asking private hospitals to set up “super-speciality” units alongside state-run hospitals in the districts. As a start, the chief minister has taken up with cardiologist and Asia Heart Foundation chairman Devi Shetty a plan to set up six such hospitals that would provide the sort of critical care that is now missing in most of Bengal beyond Calcutta. These hospitals are expected to offer treatment such as heart surgery and dialysis and diagnostic procedures such as angiography, CT scan and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) at affordable rates. They will come up either within the district hospitals’ compounds or nearby, depending on free space on the premises and land availability outside. Government officials said the new units would be set up on a public-private partnership (PPP) model whose details are yet to be worked out. Shetty, who began his career in Calcutta before shifting to Bangalore, will hand in a detailed project report within two weeks. Government sources said the district hospitals in Purulia, Birbhum, North Dinajpur and East Midnapore were likely to be included in the list of six. The plan is to extend the programme to subdivisional hospitals in future. Although issues of funds and logistics are yet to be worked out, everyone from health department officials to private hospitals have lauded the initiative as a good first step. A few state-run hospitals do have units set up with private help, but these are restricted to basic diagnostic procedures. Private help has never been sought before to provide crucial treatment like dialysis at state hospitals or to set up catheterisation laboratories for angiography.

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