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Healthcare on expert radar
- Central bed bank to reduce refusals at medical colleges

The expert group on the state’s public health service reforms is planning to take steps to reduce refusals at medical colleges. One of their suggestions is to create a central bank of beds.

The group, in a meeting held last week, decided to visit all state-run medical colleges in the next few weeks and submit a report to the health department on the problems and short-term solutions.

“A bed bank needs to be set up centrally to monitor the number of vacant beds in medical colleges,” said critical care expert Subrata Maitra, the expert group chairman. “Also, a dedicated emergency ward, where a patient can be kept for at least two days, could reduce the number of refusals.” Other members of the group include Tridib Banerjee, chairman of a task force on mother-and-child care, economists Abhirup Sarkar and Sugato Marjit and Shekhar Chaudhuri, the director of IIM, Calcutta.

The expert group had been set up by the state government to overhaul Bengal’s healthcare.

In the prevailing system, a patient is first brought to the emergency unit and examined by a medical officer. The patient is then usually kept on an observation bed and, if required, recommended for admission.

“But the patient has to leave if there is no bed. But if there is an emergency ward with a dedicated medical officer round the clock, like in other wards, patients could be kept for a couple of days,” Maitra said. “If by then no bed is available in the main ward, the patient would at least be given a chance for his condition to stabilise.”

Maitra said a centrally controlled system should be set up, where information about beds in medical colleges would be maintained. “Whenever there is a bed vacant in a medical college, the central control would be informed,” said Maitra.

If a hospital cannot provide a bed to a patient, he or she can be informed whether there is one at another hospital, using the bed bank. “This can reduce harassment of patients,” Maitra said.

Swasthya Bhavan officials said the expert group would assess the current status of the patient-care services provided by tertiary institutions in the public sector in terms of quality and quantity, with special reference to services defined as “super speciality”.

The group will submit their report in May, said sources. The procedure would be repeated in secondary-level healthcare institutions, such as state general and district hospitals.