Pranab Mukherjee and Swami Buddhananda, the general secretary of Bharat Sevashram Sangha, at the inauguration of the hospital. (Bishwarup Dutta)
The first 100 beds and the outpatient department of the 500-bed multidisciplinary Bharat Sevashram Hospital in Joka was inaugurated on Sunday.
The sprawling hospital spread across seven acres, the only one in the area, is committed to treating the poor for free or at a nominal cost. Monks running the hospital said there were plans to start a medical college on the premises.
“The orthopaedic and ophthalmology departments, of 50 beds each, will start functioning from tomorrow. A nursing training school and another school for technicians, both part of phase I, will start soon,” said Swami Bramhatmananda of the Sangha
“Since we depend on donations we can’t say for sure when all 500 beds will be functional. Our target is to start them in two-three years,” said the monk, a cardiologist.
Union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, who inaugurated the hospital, said: “Bharat Sevashram Sangha has set an example by setting up this hospital. It is impossible for the government alone to reach everywhere. We need private-public partnerships in healthcare and organisations like this (the Sangha).”
The Centre, Mukherjee added, was considering framing a right to healthcare law on the lines of the Right to Information Act. “That way people would be able to stand up for what they are entitled to.”
According to the hospital’s calculations, it will be able to treat 25 per cent patients free while others will be treated at a reduced cost.
Hospital sources said a digital X-ray would cost Rs 60, ultrasonography Rs 300 and an MRI scan Rs 3,000. Apart from the OPD and special clinics, the hospital now has a diagnostic wing with an automated laboratory, physiotherapy unit and a yoga centre.
“We will start a snake bite unit and blood bank. Also we have plans for a neurosurgery unit, which coupled with the orthopaedic department, will provide trauma care to victims of road accidents, which are frequent on Diamond Harbour Road,” said Swami Bramhatmananda.
Fisheries minister Kiranmoy Nanda and the minister of state for health, Anwarul Haque, were present.