The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Tech dose for govt hospitals

The new organ-preservation cancer treatment facility at Nil Ratan Sirkar Medical College and Hospital, the sophisticated eye microsurgery unit at Calcutta National Medical College and Hospital and the advanced neurosurgical facility coming up at SSKM Hospital carry a common message: “do come back to government hospitals, things aren’t as bad as they were”.

With chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee using almost every forum to voice his concern for the state of healthcare, government hospitals are, finally, trying to clean up their act and check the patient exodus to private nursing homes in the city and in other metros.

Slow and steady seems to be the latest medical mantra, with the makeover move spread over the next few years. The amount being invested in the latest diagnostic and treatment tools at government hospitals will bring them at par with the facilities offered by private centres, say senior health department officials.

“Our idea is to improve the hospitals and stop people from leaving our state,” says health minister Surya Kanta Mishra.

“We need to break out of the mould of conventional thinking. So, the enormous investment in hospitals,” adds director of health services Prabhakar Chatterjee. “We are planning a phased introduction of the latest gadgets in government hospitals… We are serious about turning them into centres of excellence, thereby stopping the flight of patients and revenue.”

Every year, according to a rough estimate, over 30,000 people from the state opt for treatment and diagnosis outside Bengal. Thousands more choose private clinics over government hospitals in Calcutta. All this has prompted a rethink on the government’s health policy, admit senior officials.

Health department officials aren’t even trying to put a figure to the revenue loss triggered by the patient exodus. “The government will continue to lose crores until it comes up with a basic revenue model,” says Subir Ganguly, head of the radiotherapy department in Medical College and Hospital.

The government hospital revamp route is paved by funds from the State Health Development Project (SHDP) and the coffers of the Centre and Bengal. It promises to ensure, besides improved treatment facilities, renovation of dilapidated buildings.

Some of the grand plans include opening of a new three-dimensional cancer treatment planning and execution facility in the radiotherapy wing of NRS Medical College and Hospital, plus renovating the building.

“Two machines (one the Theratron 780E costing Rs 1.8 crore and the other an Iridium-192 costing Rs 1.2 crore) have already been bought,” says Kalyan Bhattacharya, head of radiotherapy at NRS Medical College and Hospital, adding that the government wants to turn the department into “a super-speciality clinic”, with neuro-radiotherapy.

A state-of-the-art CT scan machine and a proposed neurosurgery wing, in association with a private hospital, is also on the cards at SSKM Hospital. “We have plans to instal over 500 new improved X-ray machines and dental X-ray machines, which the government hospitals never had,” says Prabhakar Chatterjee.

For the first time in a city government hospital, patients undergoing eye microsurgery at Calcutta National Medical College and Hospital and the NRS Medical College and Hospital Hospital will be able to go back to work the day after the operation. All thanks to the latest ‘phaco surgery’, which helps surgeons destroy the cataract with the help of a tiny needle, capable of splitting the cataract into 40,000 pieces in one second. “We are shortly starting phaco surgery at Calcutta National Medical College and Hospital. This technique is only available in top-notch private clinics at a very high price,” says Jyotirmoy Dutta of the hospital’s opthalmology department.

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