The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Surgery bill cut in health pep-up pill

A pacemaker implant for Rs 45,000, a kidney transplant at less than a lakh and a valve-replacement surgery for as low as Rs 57,000. High-quality treatment at low rates for those who cannot afford treatment at private hospitals is a focal point of the state government’s healthcare salvage operation.

A government-appointed ethical and feasibility committee, under the chairmanship of director of health services Prabhakar Chatterjee, has finalised plans of offering high-cost surgeries at throwaway prices.

“We have decided that from now, permanent pacemaker implants at state-run hospitals in the city will be available for as low as Rs 45,000. We will also make this facility available in Burdwan, Bankura and North Bengal medical colleges and hospitals shortly,” said Chatterjee.

A pacemaker implant at private clinics, costing nearly Rs 90,000, including hospital stay, according to Chatterjee, will be available at highly subsidised rates. Four reputed pacemaker companies have agreed to provide single-chamber VVI (ventricular-sensed and ventricular-paced inhibitor) pacemakers for Rs 45,000 to government hospitals, instead of the standard Rs 60,000. And that is all it would cost the patient.

The first such low-cost implant was carried out on a 50-year-old patient on Saturday in the cardiology department of RG Kar Medical College and Hospital.

“Thanks to the government’s efforts, we can provide quality treatment at an extremely reasonable cost,” said Abhijit Banerjee, head of department (cardiology).

The government is also in talks with private institutions to create a common platform, where prices of essential surgeries and CT scans can be made affordable. Sajal Dutta, president of the Association of Hospitals of Eastern India (AHEI), involving 10 top private hospitals of the city, said: “As a start, we have decided to consider scaling down prices for patients referred from government-run hospitals.”

The government is also aiming to make other heart surgeries affordable. A few days ago, an atrial septal defect (hole in the heart) was corrected at Calcutta National Medical College and Hospital for Rs 30,000, just the cost of consumables used in the operating theatre.

Kidney transplant is another target area. The procedure would be extended beyond SSKM to Nilratan Sircar and Sambhunath Pandit hospitals, and the cost halved to a lakh or less.

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