Kolkata: In a bid to scale up healthcare services in remote areas, the West Bengal government is leasing out and giving management control of a newly built super-speciality hospital at Salboni in West Midnapore district to JSW Cement Ltd.

The cement maker, which has set up a 2.4 million tonne plant in Salboni, has agreed to take control of the Salboni hospital, chief minister Mamata Banerjee said, shortly after formally inaugurating the production facility on Monday.

JSW Cement’s managing director Parth Jindal had said on Sunday that the company is committed to providing financial support to run the hospital.

The state government will continue to provide “some money", Jindal said. “The balance will come from our funds dedicated for CSR (corporate social responsibility)." An in-principle decision has been made to take control of the hospital. A detailed agreement with the state government will follow, he added.

West Bengal has in the past few years built some 42 super-speciality hospitals, largely with funds received from the union government. Some of these hospitals are located in remote locations such as Salboni and Lalgarh, both in West Midnapore district.

At the time of building the hospitals, staffing them was a key concern, said a former health department official, who asked not to be named. Doctors have typically been found to be reluctant to work at these locations—Salboni, for instance, is at least two-and-half hours by car from Kolkata, this person said.

A public-private partnership to run such facilities may be a solution. However, the JSW Group’s lack of expertise in running healthcare facilities is a concern, added this former official.

Though terms of the lease have not been finalised yet, the hospital at Salboni will continue to provide services free of cost or at the same rates as any other government-run facility, said Biswa Ranjan Satpathi, advisor to the state’s health department and until recently the director of health services.

Asked if employees of the hospital are to be on the payroll of the state government or a private entity, Satpathi said such details are not clear yet, adding that this is the first experiment with private partnership of this nature.

Previously, the state government had offered land at subsidised rates to build private hospitals, and in return secured a commitment from them to reserve a portion of their facilities to provide affordable healthcare. But such hospitals have mostly been built in Kolkata and its suburbs.

Of the 42 super-speciality hospitals that have recently been built, 39 have been commissioned, and the remaining three are nearing completion, said another health department official, who, too, asked not to be named. Of those in operation, 36 have started to take in patients; three have started with outpatient departments, he added.

Full staffing at these hospitals may never be achieved, and many are being run with visiting doctors from Kolkata hospitals, according to this person. “Bringing in a private partner to run some these hospitals could help," he added.

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