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Private push to health study

Bengal’s first private medical college and hospital will start admitting students by 2004, marking a milestone in the Marxist government’s march towards the opening-up of medical education.

At meeting after meeting, be it with Ramakrishna Mission monks or industrialists, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has made it a point to plead for private initiative to set a wrong right — the failure of the government to set up a single medical college in 25 years.

Suraksha, a private hospital chain, has now started work on a college in Rajarhat, with an initial investment of Rs 175 crore. To begin with, 100 students will be enrolled for the MBBS course, with provisions for a 1,000-bed hospital and a nursing college, with 250 seats every academic year.

“We have completed all formalities and construction is slated to start in January 2003,” Suraksha director Somnath Chatterjee said on Wednesday. “The foundation stone will be laid by chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee,” he added. The state government is said to have provided 25 acres in the new Rajarhat township for the project.

The college will have 17-lakh square feet of built-up area and state-of-the-art facilities. “We are building the college according to Medical Council of India guidelines, so that no problem arises in getting the clearance before the commencement of the academic session,’’ officials said.

The proposed college, say officials, will meet some of the demand for medical education in the state. The state-conducted Joint Entrance Examination sees an average of 40,000 aspirants fighting it out for 900 seats in the seven under-graduate medical colleges in the state, say officials.

The tide, say officials, is finally turning. Proposals from other private firms, too, have reached Writers’ Buildings. “Two groups, Westbank and Peerless, submitted proposals but did not follow them up,” said director of medical education Chittaranjan Maiti, adding that private groups appeared wary of setting up and running a medical college, as it was more “complicated” than many other ventures.

When the Suraksha proposal reached his table last month, the chief minister held a meeting with state health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra, state higher education minister Satyasadhan Chakraborty and senior health department officials to give the go-ahead.

Suraksha director Chatterjee said the chief minister and urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya had been “instrumental in granting no-objection certificates” without a hitch.

At present, Suraksha runs a hospital in Salt Lake and a diagnostic laboratory, with another 100-bed hospital to be inaugurated next week.

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