With the addition of 25,000 hospital beds and increase in health budget by five times in West Bengal, private hospitals feel that health sector is on the verge of a turnaround in the state.
“Just look at the statistics on the kind of infrastructure which we have built up in the last few years. Health costs have reduced for the poor due to various schemes launched by the government. Health service availability has improved a lot,” Apollo Gleneagles Hospitals CEO Dr Rupali Basu said.
Private healthcare providers were working with the government to showcase the success of the state in the health sector during the Bengal Global Business Summit, which starts from Friday.
During the last 4-5 years, sick newborn care units have increased to 45 from six, indoor treatment and medicines in all government hospitals have been made free for the poor.
A number of fair price diagnostic centres have been set up, which provide services at discounted rates and even for free when it comes to poor patients.
To subsidise health and built infrastructure, plan expenditure out of state budget has been increased by five times to Rs 5159.86 crore during 2011-2015.
Harsh Lodha, chairman, Birla Corporation Ltd, which runs few hospitals including the super-speciality Belle Vue Clinic, says statistics speak for itself.
“I will say that services at government hospitals are now at par with the private sector. It is a big success of the state government,” Lodha said.
Lodha and Basu have also been involved as co-chairpersons in the state committee on education, health and skills development.
“Not only have we been making investments in the health sector ourselves, but are also inviting Max and Medanta to set up hospitals in the state,” Basu said.
The private sector has also gained as a result of the increased emphasis on health.
“The PPP (public-private partnership) has been a big success and even become a model for others. The fair price medicine shops and fair price diagnostic centres are being run by the private sector successfully,” the Apollo hospital's CEO said. Under the 'Shishu Saathi' program, the state government has joined hands with both private and government hospitals to provide free paediatric cardiac surgery to a number of children each year.
Although lot of work has been done on the infrastructure side, quality of health service still remains a major challenge. “I will say, work is in progress and the journey has already started,” Dr Basu said.
Lodha, on the other hand, said health education and awareness on preventive healthcare was the biggest challenge before policymakers.
“We still have issues relating to hygiene and open defecation. If we can tackle these basic issues, then much of our work is done,” he said.
With improvement in health infrastructure, the number of patients from nearby states and neighbouring countries like Myanmar, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Nepal have also increased.
About 30 per cent of the revenue comes from these cases and it has increased in the last few years, Basu said.
On the medical education side, MBBS and BDS seats have been increased to 2,700, while nine new medical colleges were being set up in different parts of the state.