June 13: The managements of several private hospitals are consulting finance professionals and doctors to identify the components determining the cost of treatment, which they want the state government to consider before fixing the rates for them.
An orthopaedic surgeon with a decade's experience of working in the city said a decision on rates should be taken "rationally, otherwise it would make a serious impact on the quality of treatment".
The surgeon explained how using an inferior surgical suture can affect the patient's recovery. "If inferior sutures are used after knee repair surgery, there are chances of the patient developing arthritis later in life," the surgeon said.
The West Bengal Clinical Establishments Regulatory Commission has announced that the rates it has fixed for Swastha Sathi, a health scheme for the poor, will be the "reference" point for determining the "reasonable" fees private hospitals can charge.
It has sought suggestions from the hospitals on the rates of treatment packages, diagnostic tests and procedures and directed them to a notice uploaded on its website.
Private hospitals have termed such a point of reference "unrealistic".
A component the private hospitals want the government to focus on are surgery costs. A complicated surgical procedure needs specialised hands, to hire which a patient has to pay more.
"If the rates are not viable, good doctors will leave or at least desist from performing complicated procedures," the CEO of a private hospital said.
"We cannot get a complicated procedure done by a doctor lacking the required skills because if anything goes wrong we will be held responsible."
Another factor the hospitals want the government to consider is high investment on equipment. A private hospital has been in talks with a US-based company to acquire a robotic angioplasty set-up, which costs around Rs 4.5 crore. With the rate sword dangling on it, the hospital is having second thoughts.
"We also spend heavily on infection control to maintain standards prescribed by reputable quality control agencies. There have to be some avenues to raise the money," a senior official of a private hospital said.
The big private hospitals in Calcutta employ around 10,000 people. The figure will be much higher if one takes into account the smaller nursing homes. "If we are forced to cut rates, many low-skill workers will lose their jobs," the official said.
Overhead costs and annual appraisals should also be taken into account, pointed out another official.
"The government's intention is good but we need to strike a balance between viability and affordability. Health-care has to be of good quality and affordable at the same time. But affordability shouldn't jeopardise the viability of the industry," said cardiothoracic surgeon Kunal Sarkar.
"The government should appoint a professional agency to do an affordability-viability analysis. Seventy per cent of health-care in India is in the private sector, requiring private capital."