Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s dream project to provide free health services at state-run hospitals across West Bengal received glitches following the resistance by a section of doctors and paramedical staff, who have some alleged links with drug manufacturers and suppliers.
To execute the project, state government had already increased the allotted money from Rs 500 crore to Rs 800 crore in the financial year.
However, the services have not fully reached all the beneficiaries due to a section of “corrupt” people within the health department.
A senior official in the state health department on condition of anonymity said that a section of doctors and paramedical staff at government establishments were trying to oppose the project as they used to make money out of selling expensive drugs, surgical equipment, orthopedic implants and stents. They used to recommend patients to buy these items from a particular shop or company as they had a commission on selling each item. As the unholy practices were stopped following the introduction of the new project, many of these people have become instrumental in getting government earn a bad name.
“A section of people in the government hospitals and medical colleges were not cooperating with the government for the smooth running of the project which has been benefitting the poor people coming to the hospitals for treatment. Some were saying that a particular medicine/equipment was not available in the hospital but in reality the nurses, who were supposed to bring the drug from hospital store, were reluctant to do the same,” a senior official in the health department said.
He also said that action would be taken against these people, the process of which has already started. According to the official, around 70-80 per cent patients visiting the hospitals were already getting the benefits of this flagship project announced by the Chief Minister before Durga Puja. It will run in full swing covering 100 per cent of the patients by early next year. A secretary level officer in the department said there was no question of scarcity of items that were covered under the new scheme at the hospitals as all the medical colleges have been given lots of money to run the project smoothly. They have also been asked to procure the necessary items from the government affiliated company if needed.
“We take a requisition from each department of the government hospitals as per their requirements, go through the detail account on what type of patients visit hospitals in a month and what types of drugs were necessary and their requirements. Then the government makes balk purchases of medicines, instruments, stents, implants, expensive drugs including that of cancer from the pharmaceutical companies selected through a particular procedure in much discounted rate.” He also added, “At the present moment, we have provided medicines worth Rs 4-5 crore to each of the health department of medical colleges and hospitals. They are then dispatched to various wards and departments. Logistic management of handling and dispensing the medicines and other items is a challenge for us. An IT based company has been assigned to do the job.”
Lever transplantation was done on a patient at the SSKM Hospital recently where the patient had to pay nothing for the operation as the state government had already spent Rs 13 lakh for this. Whereas, at any other private hospital, the cost would have been around Rs 25 lakh.
The free treatment means all beds, diets for the patients and tests done by the hospital owned units are free, along expensive drugs of cencer, surgical items, orthopedic implants, stents and many others.
When asked about the project, Principal Secretary (Health) Molay Dey said: “The main purpose of the project was to make the health services accessible to the poorest sections of people. The government wants to ensure that underprivileged people do not have to sell off their belongings to get health services.”