The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Go to nursing homes, says Buddha

Calcutta, July 24: People who can afford should go to private hospitals for health- care, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said today.

Government hospitals, the chief minister said, are over- burdened and should be allowed to serve the poor.

At the opening of the 220-bed BP Poddar Hospital at up-scale New Alipore, he also laid bare the government's plan for seeking greater private participation in healthcare.

The private sector should provide facilities at an affordable price, Bhattacharjee said.

The fact, though, remains that most nursing homes only have limited beds at moderate rates. The rest are steeply priced and the facilities beyond the means of a vast section of the middle class.

'In the last few decades, the government has not done anything to improve the condition of state-run hospitals. There are no facilities, and we knew that this (government's appeal) was coming. It is sad that they have to fall back upon private groups now,' said R.D. Dubey, an Indian Medical Association joint secretary. 'It seems that most people are now left with no alternative but to bow to private groups.'

The government, Bhattacharjee said, was committed to encourage growth in the private sector. Citing instances of how some of the major players have already invested in Bengal, he said he was upbeat about proposals that have already landed for New Town.

'The Reddys are planning a new unit in Rajarhat and we have identified land for the Tatas to set up a cancer research centre in this new township. We are also ready to provide land to the Poddars for their new hospital at Baruipur. We need private participation as the government alone cannot run the show. But I would also add that the private hospitals should keep their charges within the reach of the middle-class and adhere to certain standards,' Bhattacharjee said.

The government had earlier expressed concern about nursing homes, mushrooming across Bengal, not following set practices and charging people at will. It had also mulled a watchdog to keep vigil.

The chief minister today mentioned that his office had been receiving complaints about the functioning of private hospitals. He also expressed satisfaction that the new hospital had an ethics committee.

The provision of free check-ups for senior citizens earned his kudos. 'I can get free treatment here because I have just turned 60. The new mayor would have to wait a few more years,' Bhattacharjee said as Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya sat smiling on the dais.

The government has received financial support from the UK's department for international development to establish a five-tier healthcare set-up in rural Bengal. Bhattacharjee also said that the government had sought World Bank help to revamp village healthcare.

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