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Healthcare goes on downturn diet

The downturn virus has spread to the city’s healthcare sector, too.

The big players have put on hold almost all small and super-speciality projects that were scheduled to be commissioned in late 2008 or early this year because of a dip in revenues and “cautious funding” by banks.

“Funding is slow and everyone has been affected,” Vishal Bali, the CEO of Wockhardt Hospitals, told Metro from Mumbai.

Wockhardt was supposed to inaugurate the first phase of its 350-bed super-speciality hospital off the EM Bypass a couple of months ago but won’t do so until at least the end of the year. The hospital will cater to patients requiring advanced treatment in cardiology, urology, nephrology, orthopaedics and neurosciences.

“We expect the project to become operational by November,” Bali said.

Apollo Gleneagles Hospital too has decided to go slow. “Our 50-bed oncology unit will be commissioned this year but we are not going ahead with our plans to start Apollo Reach hospitals in tier-II cities as of now,” said Rupali Basu, the CEO of Apollo Gleneagles, Calcutta.

Three Apollo Reach hospitals, each with 150 beds, were to be set up in Burdwan, Siliguri and Asansol with a budget of around Rs 300 crore.

AMRI Hospitals had lined up similar projects — a 200-bed hospital in Siliguri and a 100-bed one in Burdwan — but both have been delayed. “We have revised the dates because of the meltdown,” said S.K. Todi of AMRI.

Neither of the two hospitals is likely to be commissioned before 2011-12.

The Rs 120-crore Tata Medical Centre in Rajarhat is also feeling the pinch. The cancer care and research institute was to be operational by the first quarter of 2008 but labour unrest and cost escalation delayed its completion by more than a year.

Sources said the cost of building the 150-bed hospital had increased by 40 per cent and the downturn could push the commissioning date further.

“Funding by banks is not the only problem. Internal revenue generation has been affected, too,” a senior executive of a city hospital said.

Brig (retd) S.B. Purkayastha, the CEO of Ruby General Hospital, said the hardest blow was companies reducing their spending on healthcare for employees. “Most companies have streamlined their health check-up schemes and other facilities for employees, affecting us in the bargain.”

Hospitals are also losing patients from abroad, including the UK and the US.

Sources said the number of foreign patients coming to the city for treatment — mainly cosmetic surgery — had declined over the past few months despite the expenses still being much lower than in other countries.

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