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26 April 2010
By Jyoti Shelar & Deepa Suryanarayan
Mumbai, India

With 1,500 beds, Seven Hills Hospital, a super specialty centre in Marol, is the city’s newest big player in the health care sector. With hi–tech facilities, the hospital will cater mostly to people from higher middle class and above. But the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has tried to make the services of the hospital available to poor people at a subsidised rate. For that, the civic body has entered into a partnership with the hospital spread over 17 acres in Andheri East.

“Health care for free is impossible,” said Dr Sanjay Oak, dean, KEM, medical director (major hospitals). “Technology, including digital x–rays, CT scans, MRIs, etc, always comes at a price.”

Therefore, the civic health department has worked out a public–private partnership (PPP) model, where a private health care provider is given concessions on land, excise duty, import duty of equipment, etc, in return for reservation of about 20% beds for BMC patients.

Seven Hills Hospital, for instance, will have 300 beds reserved for BMC patients. Dr Sanjay Sharma, medical director, Seven Hills Hospital, said: “The BMC patients will be offered treatment at a subsidised rate which will be equal to that of KEM Hospital or any other civic hospital. Most people cannot afford health care in our country. The government too, due to various reasons, is unable to meet the needs of all patients. I believe the best way to solve the problem is to follow the PPP model.”

Incidentally, India spends about 6.2% of the GDP on health care. According to Dr Sharma, the PPP model is not a risk, as many believe. “I do not see the PPP model failing if it is done ethically and correctly,” he said.

But according to critics, the model has not always been successful in the past, and the rules often flouted by the hospitals.

Ravi Duggal, advocate and health care activist, said: “Since there is no accountability on the part of hospitals nor enforcement from government agencies, the PPP model is not strictly followed.”

Another health care activist said that in many cases private hospitals have availed of all the subsidies under the PPP model, but did not offer any charity beds.

But the BMC has come up with a solution to this problem. “As far as Seven Hills is concerned, a BMC officer deputed at the hospital will ensure there is accountability [on the part of the hospital],” Dr Oak said.

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