‘If private hospitals are forced to take in patients at low costs under the scheme, many will have to shut shop’.


New Delhi: Several private hospitals from West Bengal have raised questions over the West Bengal government’s Swasth Sathi scheme which aims to provide free healthcare up to Rs five lakh to all its citizens free of cost.

The private hospitals, including AMRI, Bellvue Nursing Home, Peerless Hospital, among others, have said that the rates prescribed for treatments under the Swasth Sathi scheme are “unrealistic” and this would lead to refusal by the private hospitals to treat patients coming under the scheme into their hospitals.

Multiple sources that this correspondent spoke to in several hospitals across West Bengal said that the rates prescribed for procedures and treatments under the Swasth Sathi scheme by the Bengal government are 7 to 8 times lesser than the actual cost incurred by hospitals to conduct those procedures and treatments.

A senior management from one of the biggest private hospital in Kolkata told The Sunday Guardian that if the government does not alter these rates and forces private hospitals to take in patients under the Swasth Sathi scheme, then many of the hospitals will have to shut shop.

In the cardiology section, the West Bengal government has fixed the rate of Cardiac Catheterisation at Rs 8,000, while the actual rate charged by hospitals in Bengal and elsewhere in India is somewhere between Rs 16,500 to Rs 20,000. While a Single Chamber ICD implantation which is a procedure done related to the heart is priced at Rs 30,000, doctors say that the actual pricing for this procedure costs about Rs one lakh.

Similarly, other surgeries like the Whipples surgery, which is a pancreatic surgery and costs about Rs four lakh in Kolkata, has been priced at Rs two lakh under the West Bengal government’s Swasth Sathi scheme.

A doctor from another private hospital in Bengal said that the cost of procedures has not been factored in correctly by the government in West Bengal and that it seems that the pricing has been set by someone who has no knowledge about the medical field.

“It seems the West Bengal government has no knowledge about procedures in hospitals. How can they expect to treat patients in such low cost? The super specialty hospitals have high end equipment which needs high maintenance costs; moreover, it needs a huge manpower of skilled and semi-skilled professionals, and to maintain the quality of the healthcare they are providing, they cannot go by a price set by the government. This will only lead to rejection,” the doctor said.

Another doctor, who is also a part of the management in a private hospital, raised apprehensions about the government holding up the dues of private hospitals which could affect the functioning of the hospitals.

The doctor said, “The plan is very ambitious, but it needs to be ironed out in many places. What needs to be ensured is that the cost of treatments of the insured patients are reimbursed by the government soon or else it will lead to a lot of cash crunch in the hospitals.”

However, a delegation of private hospital management had met the Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and the team members of the State’s health department earlier this week and the government has assured them that they would be looking into their apprehensions and that an expert committee would be formed which will look into the pricing and other details raised by the private hospitals.

Niranjan Ghosh, Senior General Manager of Bell Vue Nursing Home, told The Sunday Guardian, “We have apprised the government about the problems we are likely to face with these prescribed rates. The government has asked us to give a proposal after which they will analyse that proposal and come to a conclusion. It is still in the dialogue stage and we hope the government will consider our concerns. I am also hopeful that the government will hold more talks with us and there will be negotiations and we can come to a better position with respect to this in the coming days.”

According to sources, the Association of Hospitals of Easter India (AHEI) is currently working out on the proposal with the rates from the hospitals’ side which will be submitted to the Bengal government and further will be sent to a committee of experts by the government for consideration.