Thursday, December 8

Swasthya Sathi scheme draws patients to private hosps in city

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Some private hospitals in Kolkata have seen a surge in the number of Swasthya Sathi patients over the last fortnight, forcing them to draw up a plan to accommodate them. Most have been flooded with enquiries from those who have just got the new state health scheme card which provides a Rs 5 lakh health insurance cover. At a meeting held at Nabanna recently, the state government made it clear to private hospitals that they can’t refuse Swasthya Sathi patients.
“There has been a sudden increase in patients at our hospital and at present, at least five out of every 10 we are attending to are admitted under the Swasthya Sathi scheme,” said a senior employee of the Howrah unit of a superspeciality hospital.

The sudden rise in the number of patients has increased the waiting time for admission and led to a scarcity of amenities like wheelchairs at some hospitals. “My father was supposed to undergo a surgery for a kidney ailment and was advised admission a day before the surgery. We brought him to the hospital at the time mentioned but they could finally allot him a bed after more than five hours. The reason cited was shortage of beds in the general ward and that they were waiting for a patient to get released before allotting the bed to my father,” said a young techie who said she was surprised to see the additional rush of patients at the hospital, a tertiary care facility.

The rush is not yet significant at all hospitals, though. At Peerless Hospital, for instance, there has been a mere 5-10% rise in Swastha Sathi patients over the last one week. “It’s still too early for a rush but we expect the number to rise over the next 2-3 months. So, we have appealed to the government not to burden tertiary care hospitals with minor cases. This will help us serve all Swasthya Sathi patients and refusals won’t happen,” said Peerless Hospital CEO Sudipta Mitra.

Swasthya Sathi has allowed many to avail private healthcare facilities for the first time in their lives. “I was diagnosed with stomach cancer six months ago and doctors suggested immediate surgery which would cost between Rs 4.5 lakh to 5 lakh. I couldn’t afford it. But the day I got the card on Wednesday, I got admitted at a private hospital. None in my family has ever been treated at a private hospital before,” said Rajarhat resident Mohammed Faruk (35), a mason by profession.

The Association of Hospitals of Eastern India (AHEI) has proposed a cap on the number of Swasthya Sathi patients at each private hospital. “This will help to make it sustainable for us and distribute Swasthya Sathi patients among all hospitals so that we can serve other patients as well,” said AHEI president Rupak Barua.

Launched by chief minister Mamata Banerjee in 2016, the scheme was recently extended to all residents of the state.

Source: TimesofIndia

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