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Westbank Hospital hopes to break even

Kohinoor Mandal

KOLKATA, July 17

WESTBANK Hospital, a first-generation private sector healthcare unit located at Howrah, is likely to break even in 2002-03, which is its fourth year of operations. The hospital is owned by Meridian Medical Research & Hospital Ltd.

The average break-even period of the private sector healthcare units in India is over five years. More than 95 per cent of the private players in this sector do not register profits even after completing five years.

Meridian Medical Research is promoted by a group of Indian doctors who studied and trained in Europe and America. However, the major part of the investment was made by NRI industrialist, Mr Bicky Chakraborty. According to Mr Utpal Chakraborty, Executive Director, the company registered a turnover of Rs 4.73 crore in 2001-02 but posted no profits.

However, during the current fiscal, the company hoped to register some profit on a turnover of Rs 6.50 crore, a 37 per cent increase.

He also said that instead of increasing the fees for different facilities, the management has tried to reduce the bed-stay of the patients in the Westbank Hospital.

"Once a patient is admitted, we spend less time in diagnosing and investigations. Then the treatment, whatever necessary, is carried out as early as possible. All these steps take a lot of time. If that time is reduced, the patient also benefits as he will have to pay less hospital charges. The bed will also be free for a new patient and reduces our cost too,'' Mr Chakraborty said.

He added that increasing charges was not a solution. Moreover, higher fees would keep away a large section of the population.

Meridian Medical started with an equity base of Rs 2 crore and debt of Rs 5 crore.

The capital base was gradually expanded to Rs 3.5 crore and the debt component increased to Rs 7 crore.

However, the company swapped its high-cost Indian debts with foreign currency loans. As a result, it reduced the average interest rate to 10 per cent from 16 per cent.

"Mr Bicky Chakraborty helped us in getting the foreign loans by negotiating with the foreign financial institutions. Moreover, he stood guarantee for all these loans. This has helped in the financial feasibility of our project a lot.''

The hospital currently has 120 beds, three operation theatres, a 10-bed ICU and 10-bed neonatal ICU.

According to Mr Utpal Chakraborty, 47 per cent of the beds are reserved for the general category, "which is high percentage and rarely found in private sector hospitals."

The hospital provides healthcare in medicine, cardiology, general surgery, paediatrics, gynaecology, obste- trics, anaesthetics and orthopaedics. Westbank recently inaugurated a neurosurgery department.

Every month about 5,500 patients are examined at its outdoor facilities and more than 400 operations and endoscopic procedures are carried out.

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