By Bizodisha Bureau, Bhubaneswar, November 17, 2022: Odisha will have another medical college-cum-hospital at coal belt in Talcher to its existing 14 and the facility is expected to go operational by the first quarter 2023.

The Naveen Patnaik government had awarded the hospital to Mahanadi Coalfields Ltd (MCL), a major coal producer of India, keeping in mind the inaccessibility of the mining areas of Talcher to proper healthcare. Currently, the nearest premier referral hospitals to Talcher are roughly 160 km away, in Cuttack and Sambalpur.

Chief Minister Patnaik had asked MCL, a mining subsidiary of the state-owned Coal India Ltd, to build the hospital way back in 2008-2009. But construction of the 500-bed hospital and 100-seat medical college could be taken up only in 2016. The name of the hospital has not been decided yet.

In fact, MCL was to run the hospital-cum-medical college. However, even though MCL had spent Rs 492 crore to come up with a modern facility with necessary infrastructure, such as oxygen plant, underground water supply system, rainwater harvesting and electricity substation, hostel and residential complex, the company felt it lacked expertise to run a set-up like this.

When Covid struck, MCL, in March 2020, started its first dedicated Covid hospital in Bhubaneswar. It was run by a private entity. Within a month, MCL launched its second Covid facility at its newly built hospital-cum-medical college in Talcher.

Meanwhile, the same year, MCL approached the state government to take over the Talcher facility. After some back and forth, the state government agreed to run the facility subject to completion of pending work. “The institution is not ready for required clearance to run a medical college with 100 seats. There are still many deficiencies,” says a senior Odisha government official.

MCL authorities have assured the government that requisite interventions will be made. “MCL is getting all assistance from the state government to operationalise the institution. The aim is to commence the hospital as soon as possible, which will pave the way for academics to begin at the earliest,” says O.P. Singh, chairman and managing director, MCL.

The Odisha official said that with assembly elections in Odisha and Lok Sabha polls in 2024, the wait to get the hospital up and running is expected to be over soon. Setting up a hospital in a tribal region will be feather in the Naveen government’s cap, the official said.

With two big elections coming in 2024, the state government is giving a boost to infrastructure and social welfare projects. The government has also launched an initiative to complete a 289 km railway line between Khordha and Bolangir. The project got delayed because of land acquisition bottlenecks and issues over having to include 37 km of an eco-sensitive zone into the project. The government has released Rs 150 crore for speedy execution of the 96 km stretch at the earliest to connect the backward districts of Odisha.

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