Healthcare in West Bengal
The healthcare system that we know today actually began with the arrival of the British rulers in India. Before that, it was mainly the independent Ayurvedic doctors, locally known as Kavirajs, who offered treatment to the native population of the state. The first European style hospital to be established in West Bengal was the Presidency Hospital. Its aim was to provide healthcare to the Europeans living in India. Later it came to be known as Presidency General Hospital or P G Hospital.
History of Healthcare in West Bengal
Today the historical PG Hospital
is known as Seth Sukhlal Karnani Memorial Hospita
l or SSKM
. However, old habits die hard and therefore, some people still use the old name P.G. Hospital. Some also refer to it as Institute of Post-Graduate Medical Education and Research.
SSKM is the oldest general hospital in India. The hospital was established in 1707 inside the premises of the Old Fort at Gerstein Place. In the beginning, it was meant only for the European patients. Later a piece of land was purchased in 1764 and in 1770, the hospital was relocated there. From then on, its doors were open to the non-European population of the state. In spite of that, no Indian was admitted until 1873. According to records, the first native patient to be admitted in this hospital was the famous poet Michael Madhsudan Dutta. He was admitted on 22nd June and breathed his last on 29th June, 1873.
Today SSKM offers tertiary treatment under various disciplines and offers scope for extensive research work. The hospital is now funded and managed by Government of West Bengal.
Establishment of the Second Hospital in Kolkata
In order to provide treatment to the European officers residing in India the British rulers established Indian Medical Service in 1764. Soon an acute shortage of subordinate staffs trained in European way of medicine and surgery was felt. To mitigate such shortage, Medical College Bengal was established on 28th January, 1835. Its aim was to train Indians in varied branch of medical science. The institution survives till today and is now known as Medical College and Hospital, Kolkata.
Medical College and Hospital in Kolkata
It may be interesting to note that Kolkata Medical College and Hospital is the second oldest institution to teach and provide treatment in European system of medicine in Asia. Today, it is also funded and managed by the Government of West Bengal. Although it was established mainly as an institution for imparting medical science it has been equally effective in treating crores of patients since its inception. Patients from all over West Bengal come here for treatment.
Medical College and Hospital now has several blocks to treat outdoor and indoor patients. Some of them are historically significant. For instance, Ezra Hospital, built in 1887 through the benevolence of Mrs. Mozelle E. D. J. Ezra was meant only for the treatment of Jewish population of the city. Now of course, it is open to all and houses the ENT Department, Department of Psychiatry, Department of Chest Medicine, DOT Clinic etc. Calcutta School of Tropical Medicines, which specializes in tropical diseases, is another historically important wing of this hospital. Many stalwarts in the field of medicines had undertaken research work in this hospital. Then, there are Eden Hospital, David Hare Block, Regional Institute of Ophthalmology etc located within its premises.
Present Healthcare in West Bengal
Today many more healthcare units have opened up in different parts of West Bengal. They mainly fall into three categories. First are the primary healthcare units, which provide basic health facilities to the citizens. Most of these are owned by the Government of West Bengal and are located in rural belts across the state. Then there are secondary healthcare units located at district headquarters and subdivision towns. The last is tertiary healthcare centers. Although majority of these centers are located in the state capital a few of them are also located in the bigger cities.
Primary Healthcare Units in West Bengal
There are four categories of primary health care units in West Bengal. Primary Health Centers in rural belts are known as Sub Centers or SC. They provide the basic health facilities to the thousands of rural population. In West Bengal there are around 10,500 Sub Centers, each of which caters to an average 6000 patients. Different committees set up by the government have recommended that the number of Sub Centers be increased immediately so as to impart effective treatment to the rural population. They have in addition recommended certain improvement in infrastructural facilities of these centers. The government has taken up a number of projects to implement those recommendations.
Above these Sub Centers are Block Primary Health Centers (BPHC), Rural Hospital (RH) and Primary Health Care (PHC). In general, Block Primary Health Centers having thirty or more beds are known as Rural Hospitals. Otherwise, they have similar functions. All these four category of primary healthcare units are the custodians of rural health in West Bengal. However, many welfare organizations and charitable trusts are also doing considerable work in this field. Many of them have opened up hospitals and dispensaries in different villages in the rural Bengal.
Secondary Healthcare Units in West Bengal
Above the primary healthcare units are the secondary health units. In general, they form the first level of referral services for treatment by specialist doctors. State General Hospital, Sub Divisional Hospitals and District Hospitals form the backbone of such secondary healthcare facilities. In West Bengal, there are 16 District Hospitals, 45 Sub Divisional Hospitals 26 State General Hospitals. Together they have more than 18000 beds. There is however, an immediate requirement for increase in the number of beds in this category of healthcare system in West Bengal.
The following are some of the State General Hospital located in and around Kolkata. As has already been indicated, there are many more in different parts of the state.
- Baghajatin State General Hospital
- Barannagar State General Hospital
- Bidhan Nagar Sub Divisional Hospital
- Bijoygarh State General Hospital
- Gardenreach State General Hospital
Tertiary Healthcare Units in West Bengal
The tertiary healthcare units are those which offer more advanced investigation and consultations by super specialist doctors. In general, these types of services are provided by the Medical College Hospitals and by different research centers located in and around the city and also in different parts of the state. Today, many private hospitals also provide this type of services.
Government-run Medical Hospitals in Kolkata
The above mentioned Kolkata Medical College and Hospital and Seth Sukhlal Karnani Memorial Hospital fall in this category of healthcare system. They offer excellent tertiary healthcare facilities at a very affordable rate. Apart from them, Nil Ratan Sirkar Medical College and Hospital, R G Kar Medical College, Calcutta National Medical College are three other primer hospitals in the city that also impart medical degrees and offer tertiary treatment facilities. All these hospitals have extensive outdoor and indoor facilities and are capable of treating every kind of diseases.
Apart from the above mentioned primer hospitals run by the government of West Bengal there are many other lesser known but equally effective government hospitals in the city. Some of them are:
- Chittaranjan Cancer Hospital
- MR Bangur Hospital
- KPC Medical College and Hospital
- Charnock Healthcare Institute
- Dr. R Ahmed Dental College
Unfortunately, these government-run healthcare units have to deal with more patients than they were meant to and therefore these hospitals are always overcrowded. That is mainly because they offer free or affordable treatment and cater to a large area outside the city. Statistics shows that about 70% of indoor patients in the state are treated in these government hospitals as against the national average of 40%. Therefore, it is important that more hospitals offering tertiary health facilities be opened both in the city and the district.
Few Other Government-run Hospitals in Kolkata
In addition to above mentioned hospitals in Kolkata there is the B R Singh Hospital run by Indian Railways for its staff and Command Hospital run by the Military establishment for the personnel working in its three wings. Moreover, there few ESI hospitals located both in the city and also in the district to offer free treatment to those under Employees Insurance Schemes.
Government-run Medical Hospitals Outside Kolkata
Following are some of the medical college and hospitals located in the different districts of West Bengal:
- Bankura Sammilini Medical College
- Burdwan Medical College
- Midnapore Medical College
- North Bengal Medical College
- Gramin Medical College and Hospital
- Guru Nanak Institute of Dental Science and Research
- Sagar Dutta Hospital
- JNM Hospital
Private Hospitals in West Bengal
Kolkata also has many tertiary healthcare units owned by private entrepreneurs. For a list of these units you may refer to our page on Hospitals in Kolkata. However, all these healthcare units can be divided into number of categories. Some of these hospitals are big multispecialty hospitals while some are comparatively smaller units specializing in a few diseases.
Among the multispecialty hospitals Woodlands Multispecialty Hospitals Ltd is the oldest; it has been serving the city since 1947. In contrast, healthcare units like Fortis Healthcare and Apollo Gleneagles Hospital have opened their doors comparatively recently. Some other hospitals falling in this group are
- Peerless Hospital
- Advanced Medicare & Research Institute Ltd (AMRI)
- Ruby Hospital
- The Calcutta Medical Research Institute
- Kothari Medical Centre
- B P Poddar Hospital & Medical Research Ltd
- Zenith Super Specialty Hospital
- DISUN Hospital
- Columbia Asia Hospital
- IIS Hospital
- Iris Hospital
On the other end, there are few established hospitals that deal in one two sectors only. Among them we can name Rabindranath Tagore International Institute of Cardiac Sciences, Birla Hear Hospital, Tata Medical Center etc. Besides, there are number of medium and small hospitals, nursing homes and clinics that offer effective treatment. Anandalok in Salt Lake, Aravinda Hospital in Jodhpur Park, Shankar Netralay at Mukundapur etc fall in this category.
Private Healthcare at District Level in West Bengal
Most of the bigger cities in West Bengal also have a number of private hospitals and nursing homes. They mostly offer secondary and tertiary treatment facilities. Because of overcrowding at the government healthcare centers many patients prefer to be treated at these private hospitals and nursing homes and therefore, they are equally popular.
In addition to these nursing homes and hospitals, there are many independent diagnostic centers located in different parts of the state. While some smaller clinics conduct only pathological tests, some bigger ones offer all facilities under one roof.
Healthcare under Alternative Medicines in West Bengal
Treatment under alternative medicines such as homeopathy, ayurvedic and unani are also catching up very fast. A number of homeopathy and ayurvedic hospitals have opened up in different corners of the state. National Institute of Homeopathy is one among them. This 250 bedded hospital is located in Kolkata and is registered under Department of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy, Government of India.
The city also has few other homeopathic hospitals located in its different parts. Following are some such hospital located outside Kolkata:
- Bengal Homoeopathic Medical College & Hospital, Asansol
- Birbhum Vivekananda Homoeopathic Medical College & Hospital
- Burdwan Homoeopathic Medical College & Hospital
- Kharagpur Homoeopathic Medical College & Hospital
- Mahesh Bhattacharya Homoeopathic Medical College & Hospital, Howrah
- Midnapore Homoeopathic Medical College & Hospital
- Purulia Homoeopathic Medical College & Hospital
Ayurveda is another important mode of healthcare in West Bengal. There are a number of ayurvedic hospitals and clinics located in its different parts. In all, healthcare in West Bengal is quite satisfactory.