The first dedicated Swasthya Sathi wards in Kolkata have been set up at AMRI Hospitals and RN Tagore International Institute of Cardiac Sciences (RTIICS) this week while two other private hospitals are getting ready to flag off similar units by next week. With a steady spurt in the number of patients seeking admission under the scheme — that was extended to cover all Bengal residents last November — these wards will help the hospitals strike a balance between Swasthya Sathi admissions and the rest, ensuring that none is turned away, said the hospital authorities.
Earlier this week, the government raised the rates of Swasthya Sathi packages by 10%-20% and that for medical management by Rs 300 a day. But the hike has left private hospitals dissatisfied as they have called for a reconsideration of the charges that remain too low to be sustainable.
AMRI has introduced Swasthya Sathi wards at each of its three units in Dhakuria, Mukundapur and Salt Lake with a total strength of 110 general beds. All have been taken up within three days of introduction on Monday. “Since there has been a huge spurt in the number of Swasthya Sathi patients, it is necessary to have a separate ward. It had been agreed upon in our discussions with the government that 15% of our total beds would be reserved for government-scheme patients. So, we have stuck to that,” said AMRI CEO, Rupak Barua. He added that the hospital already has a long queue of Swasthya Sathi patients who have been put on a waiting list.
Around 80% of Swasthya Sathi patients at AMRI, too, have been admitted for surgeries. “Almost all of them are cardiac patients while the remaining 20% are a mix of other cases,” said Barua.
RTIICS, too, has set up a dedicated ward with 65 beds that have taken an entire floor. It will also serve patients under all other government schemes, according to zonal director, R Venkatesh. “As an endeavour to serve patients under various schemes in a seamless manner, we have earmarked a floor to accommodate all patients under various schemes including Swasthya Sathi. We stay committed to providing quality healthcare services to all,” said Venkatesh.
Medica Superspecialty Hospital is planning a separate ward soon. “At present, around 10% of our patients are under the Swasthya Sathi scheme. It has started rising and will rise phenomenally over the next few months. So, a dedicated ward is the only way we can accommodate them as well as the rest,” said senior vice-chairman and head of cardiology at Medica, Kunal Sarkar. He added that a majority of patients under the scheme have taken admission for procedures. “Due to the Covid situation, admitting patients for medical management is difficult. But with time, we will have a better balance between surgical and medicine cases,” added Sarkar.
With rates being low, the sudden surge in patients will put a strain on the finances of hospitals, felt Barua.
Another private hospital that has just got empanelled for Swasthya Sathi, is planning to introduce a dedicated ward by the end of this month.