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World Bank health talks

Calcutta, Aug. 23: The state government has turned to the World Bank for funds to improve health infrastructure in rural areas.

The World Bank has agreed “in principle” to provide funds for developing rural hospitals and primary health centres, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said shortly after inaugurating undergraduate medical courses at the SSKM Hospital today after 35 years.

The quantum of the World Bank assistance is being discussed, Bhattacharjee said. “Talks have progressed,” added the chief minister.

The state government, the chief minister said, was keen on improving healthcare facilities in rural areas in collaboration with the Centre. “They have assured us of all possible financial and research and development assistance,” he said.

Anbumani Ramadoss, the Union health minister, said the Centre’s policy was to improve rural healthcare and control population. “It is sad that over 70 per cent of the population live in rural areas and have access to only 25 per cent of healthcare facilities. We believe rural healthcare can be developed with the participation of the private sector,” the Union minister said.

“The gap between healthcare facilities in urban and rural areas must be narrowed and I am surprised to see very minimal corporate help in Bengal. Doctors also must go to the districts and play an active role in developing healthcare standards,” he said.

Earlier, the chief minister said the success of private-public ventures in housing projects could be replicated in healthcare. “The success in the housing sector has shown us the way and if private corporate groups extend their hand then healthcare in rural Bengal can improve. We are looking at setting up new health centres where the private sector will play an equally big role.”

Bhattacharjee said some private hospital groups, including the Apollo group, has agreed to help the government in this endeavour.

The Centre has also agreed to set up a unit for cancer treatment at SSKM Hospital at an estimated cost of Rs 1.38 crore. The chief minister inaugurated a unit at the Medical College and Hospital this evening.

Earlier, state health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra said the government would do whatever it could to turn SSKM Hospital into a hub for research. “We are planning to conduct research in collaboration with the Indian Institute for Chemical Biology at SSKM Hospital and improve the laboratory facilities for research,” Mishra said.

The minister also said that, with the commissioning of the new medical college, the government has also decided to start free beds for patients. “A large number of beds will be free and poor people will be avail the best facilities here,” he said.

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