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Private help to fill doc void

- Govt to set up medical colleges on PPP model

Calcutta, Sept. 23: Medical colleges will be set up in “underutilised” state hospitals with private participation under a plan drawn up by the government to overcome the shortage of doctors.

At least four such hospitals have been identified where the government hopes to set up 100-seat colleges. The academic session could begin by 2014, the officials said.

The cabinet has approved the model and the government has invited plans from private entities interested in the projects, said Swasthya Bhavan officials.

Of the four facilities identified by the health department for the project, three are TB hospitals — Dhubulia TB Hospital in Nadia, MJN TB Hospital in Cooch Behar and SB De TB Sanatorium in Kurseong. The fourth is the Rampurhat Hospital in Birbhum.

“All four are underutilised and can be converted to general hospitals. We are in the process of identifying other hospitals which are not utilised to their optimum capacity,” an official said.

“There are several underutilised hospitals in the districts where we want to set up medical colleges with private participation. Applications will be issued soon,” said Sanjay Mitra, the principal secretary of the health department.

Bengal has 1,800 MBBS seats at present in 14 medical colleges. The state faces a shortage of at least 2,000 doctors, including specialists, in government hospitals.

The officials said the move to encourage private partners was a welcome step as data available with the Medical Council of India revealed that around 70 per cent of the undergraduate medical seats in the country were private.

Bengal, by contrast, has only one private medical college — a 50-seat institution set up by the KPC group in Jadavpur.

Private hospitals such as Devi Shetty’s Narayana Hrudayalaya Hospitals group and Peerless have expressed interest in setting up a medical college at the Kurseong facility, officials said.

“Apart from these two groups, several chambers of commerce have shown interest,” said Sushanta Banerjee, the state’s director for medical education.

Banerjee said the government was planning to set up medical colleges with at least 100 seats each, for which, he added, 500-bed hospitals would be required. “The existing hospitals will have to be expanded and renovated,” he said.

A 100-seat medical college would require a minimum investment of Rs 100 crore, even if the government provides land and basic infrastructure such as equipment, said officials of private health care units.

“This (the amount) would be used for setting up hostels, academic buildings, lecture halls, auditorium, library and other infrastructure,” an official said.

The private health care groups, however, said the government was yet to specify the break-up of the investment for the colleges under the public-private-partnership-policy.

“There have been preliminary talks with the government over the Kurseong project. But there are other important issues that need to be settled — what the government would offer and what it is expecting from us,” said Kunal Sarkar, the vice-president of Narayana Hrudayalaya Hospitals group.

Under the PPP policy, several yardsticks have been laid down to select the private partner.

One-third of the seats would be reserved for Joint Entrance Examination candidates. Those successful in getting admission will be charged the standard fees in government medical colleges. The remaining seats will be mostly for candidates under the management and NRI quota, on which the government will have no control.

The revised model also says that 25 per cent of the beds in the hospitals would be free of cost. Treatment charges for the others is expected to be like that in private facilities.

The policy also offers to waive land lease charges if the private partner manages to start classes from the 2014 session.

“The lease rent, calculated at 40 per cent of the value of the land, will have to be paid by the private partner. However, the entire amount will be returned (to the private partner) if they are able to start their classes for the academic session 2014-15,” an official said.