Eight private hospitals in West Bengal have agreed to open isolation wards for treating swine flu patients following a request from the state government, a top health official said.
"We had requested 15 private hospitals to open isolation wards. Eight of them have responded positively," Tapas Sen, the state's nodal officer for swine flu, told IANS.
Apollo Gleanagles, Ruby General hospital, Calcutta Medical Research Institute and BP Poddar hospital are among the private facilities to offer swine flu treatment.
"We will hold detailed discussions on the nitty-gritties once we receive the final proposals from them," Sen said.
Apollo Gleneagles said it was almost ready with a new isolation ward. "We will be in a position to open it soon," said hospital CEO Rupali Basu.
The 10-bed state-of-art facility will have a separate entrance into the ward to prevent spread of the infection to other patients.
"There will also be no panic among those who come to the hospital for treatment of other diseases," Basu told IANS.
"We will follow all recommendations by the World Health Organisation and other health authorities," she said.
Till now, swine flu patients were being treated only at the state-run Infectious Diseases Hospital, RG Kar Medical College and Hospital, NRS Medical College and Hospital and MR Bangur Hospital in Kolkata.
District hospitals too have isolation wards for treating patients with the disease that has already claimed 78 lives in the country. West Bengal has recorded 80 swine flu patients without any fatality.
The relatively affluent have expressed their displeasure at the facilities in state-run hospitals.
"People from a certain social strata don't like the government set-up. They will prefer the private facilities once they are available," said a private hospital spokesman.
The Apollo hospital said it also had a laboratory that conforms to Bio Safety Laboratories Level 2 (BSL-2) specifications, which can be used for detecting swine flu.
Apart from the city's National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases (NICED), only the privately-run Calcutta Medical Research Institute (CMRI) has such a lab.
Now the tests on suspected swine flu patients are conducted only at the I.D. hospital and the samples are sent to the NICED.
Though the government is conducting the tests free of charge, the Apollo Hospital said it would charge Rs.5,000 for each patient. Sen said subsidy would be given for tests done on patients referred to them by the government.
"This will be done if we find that it is difficult for the state-run facilities to cope with the rush of suspected patients for tests. But others opting for private hospitals for testing may have to pay the full rates. However, we will take the final decision after meeting all these hospitals." he added.