The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Self-scan by private hospitals

The city’s big private-sector hospitals are eyeing an even bigger share of the healthcare pie, what with the state-run hospitals churning out an assembly line of horror stories.

A recent meeting of the Association of Hospitals of Eastern India — a conglomerate of the 10 biggest private healthcare centres in the city —focussed on the “negative image problems” the private hospitals suffered from. This ranged from lack of transparency in the “package deals” to bloated bills.

“With the government-run hospitals throwing up one scandal after another, all our member-hospitals agreed that the private sector should seize this opportunity to provide better care to our clients by addressing some of the problems we are perceived to have,” said an association spokesperson.

The main “problem” was the perception that there was no transparency in the package deals, officials admitted, adding that it was true, to an extent. “Most of the negative publicity we have got stems from allegations that hospital bills often overshoot the packages offered,” said Ruby General Hospital managing director and association president Sajal Datta.

To overcome this problem, patients must be told clearly — by counsellors at all member-hospitals — what the package includes (bed-fee, doctors’ and anaesthesists’ fees, OT charges) and what it excludes (medicines, extra pathological tests).

Every patient admitted to these hospitals will now have to undergo a preliminary check-up to find out undiagnosed ailments, if any.

“This will help us counter another common charge, that we treat diseases that are not there,” said an association official.

Another vital factor is the talk that private hospitals keep patients back unnecessarily. So, all pre-operation investigations would now be conducted at the outpatients’ department, said officials. The rent of rooms and beds will also be scaled down.

Some members, like Westbank Hospital, have already started buying low-cost generic medicines. “This helps patients immensely and also helps us address some of the charges against private hospitals,” said hospital director Satadal Saha.

But the biggest functional change, not apparent to the patient, is the networking among association members. One example: a surgery at a cardiac hospital in south Calcutta was held up as the sternum saw developed a hitch. A call went out to another hospital, which sent electronic engineers to set the defect right.

“We have identified our strengths and weaknesses,” said Belle Vue Clinic administrator P. Tandon. For example, most of the equipment problems are being referred to Calcutta Medical Research Institute and the hunt for a rare blood group starts at Woodlands.

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