The West Bengal government on Saturday announced that it will provide free medicine and diagnostic services in its hospitals and health centres to benefit a large section of people dependent on state healthcare.

“Henceforth, all vital and essential medicines and all available diagnostic services (except those run on PPP mode) will be provided free to all patients in government-run health centres and hospitals,” Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee told reporters at the secretariat.

Free medicines and diagnostic services would also be provided to patients in free beds in block primary health centres and rural health centres run by the government, the Chief Minister said dubbing it a “landmark” decision.

“Moreover, all expecting mothers and all children up to one year of age will get all vital and essential medicines and all available diagnostic services free in all health centres and hospitals run by the government in the state,” she said.

The Chief Minister also announced the upgrade of three medical college and hospitals in the western and northern parts of the state.

They would now have specialised facilities which will spare patients the hassle of coming down to Kolkata for treatment at a government facility, she said.

“Bankura Medical College and Hospital, Malda Medical College and Hospital and North Bengal Medical College and Hospital will be upgraded soon,” she said.

Trauma care, specialised services in areas like oncology, nephrology, endocrinology, paediatric surgery and more would be provided at these hospitals, she said.

The upgrade would cost the state exchequer Rs 450 crore, she said.

“We are doing this inspite of our financial stress to help reduce the burden of treatment cost of patients,” she added.