Though the state of West Bengal held a leading position in the healthcare sector, its position slipped over time. However, the situation has improved through PPP, government and private initiatives as evidenced by growing investments
Even till the later part of the last century, the Eastern India or more so Kolkata was considered to be in the forefront of the healthcare sector in the country. Dr BCRoy, former Chief Minister of West Bengal and the medical wizard lived and treated the poor till his last.
Late Prof AK Saha, another stalwart in the history of medical science, performed his leading experiment on ‘Dislocation of Shoulder Joint,’ a path-breaking landmark surgery at a city hospital. Late Dr AK Basu, successfully performed the first cardiac surgery here.
The city has many things to boast of, in 1921 a great invent took place here, Sir UN Brahmachari discovered Urea Stibamine, a medicine which put the last nail in the coffin of the devilish disease called ‘kala-azar’, which remains a landmark in the history of medical discoveries till date. We cannot forget the contributions of Dr Nilratan Sircar, after whom today’s NRS Hospital is named. So Kolkata’s contribution to the Indian healthcare industry is beyond doubt.
But, the pressure of a burgeoning population coupled with constraints pertaining to resources and available infrastructure, ensured that the government sector was found wanting when it came to delivery of healthcare services. The absence of a social security cover and inadequate health insurance options, only compounded the problem.
Gradually, the number of people who came to Kolkata from other eastern states and the North-East for medical treatment started decreasing. Indeed, many people from West Bengal, as also from other neighbouring states, headed for other parts of India for specialised medical treatment. Thankfully, that seems to be a thing of the past.
Government role and PPP
But, since mid-1990s, the trend appears to have been reversed. Kolkata is, slowly but surely, regaining its rightful place in the healthcare firmament in not just India but this part of the world. Several advanced healthcare facilities have been set up by the private sector even as the state administration under Mamata Banerjee is struggling to overhaul the total public healthcare system in the state and reworking its strategies in that direction. She had announced a set of long-term, mid-term and short-term approach for upgrading the health with infrastructure being her focus. The state government is pursuing PPP (public – private – partnership) model to revive the healthcare infrastructure in Bengal.
As a short-term measure, some government-owned hospitals are being upgraded. The state government also has plans to set up new super-speciality hospitals in the districts of Purulia, Bankura, West Midnapore, Birbhum and others.
The state government also has plans to upgrade the healthcare education system in the state in collaboration with private players. An AIIMS-like institute is also likely to come up at Kalyani in Nadia district.
And if we look at the private healthcare scenario in the state, it has improved substantially over the years.
In the last 10-15 years, several new international-class healthcare facilities have come up in the city. Just as Sector – V is the IT hub of the city, the entire stretch of EM Bypass from Ultadanga right upto Mukundapur – Ajoynagar and Panchasayar has emerged as the healthcare hub of the city.
While there are many healthcare institutions and allied service providers, there are a few whose names merit special mention, Apollo Gleneagles, AMRI, BM Birla Heart Research Centre, Fortis, Columbia Asia Hospital, ILS Hospital, Medica Superspecialty, Institute of Neurosciences, Peerless, Ruby, BP Poddar, Desun, Jubilant Kalpaturu Hospital, Kothari Medical Centre, Bhagirathi Neotia Woman & Child Care Centre, Rabindra Nath Tagore International Institute of Cardiac Sciences, The Mission Hospital, at Durgapur, Neotia Healthcare at Siliguri are some of them. Then there is Tata Medical Center (TMC) at New Town – Rajarhat, Ratan Tata, the scion of the Tata Group’s gift to Bengal, is a Mecca for cancer treatment, a world-class healthcare facility dedicated to cancer care and research.
Also institutions like the century-old National Insurance Company, which has been offering health insurance policies offering wide coverage and continuous protection against unforeseen contingencies.
These hospitals, have augmented the city’s healthcare offerings in addition to older institutions such as The Calcutta Medical Research Institute, Belle Vue Clinic, Mercy Hospital, Woodlands Multispecialty Hospital, and so on.
The same trend is also seen in Odisha, more so in cities like Bhubaneswar and Cuttack, where there has been a sincere effort to revive the healthcare delivery system. Several private hospitals have come up in these twin cities, which match international standards. Notable among them are Kalinga Hospital, Apollo Hospitals, LV Prasad Eye Institute, Hemlata Hospital and others.
The most important aspect that has been a game-changer in case of private healthcare delivery in the East is state-of-the-art technology for better treatment facility. Latest technologies like laparoscopy, laser, minimal invasive surgery and even robotic surgery have revolutionised the concept of surgery in the East.
Whether linear accelerator with IGRT and IMRT or radio surgery for cancer, beating heart surgery in cardiac sciences, deep brain stimulation in neuro-surgery, ocular oncology in ophthalmology, steel OT with laminar airflow, 64 slice CT, 3 Telsa MRI, today these hospitals have it all.
Introduction of these latest techniques have resulted in delivering quality healthcare as well as ensuring precision, minimising the chances of error and saving the precious time of both the patient as well as the doctors.
The healthcare centres understand the need of multidisciplinary department in a hospital. The concept of multispeciality hospitals re-moulded with private players coming into the fray. So under one roof there are all multiple departments, which means a diabetic patient will not have to visit another hospital for a nephrologist or for that matter a cardiology patient can have his nutrition chart in the same hospital.
Due to its strategic location, Kolkata caters not only to the medical needs of Bengal but also of neighbouring states like Jharkhand, Bihar, Chattisgarh, and the entire Northeast. Patients from Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan regularly come here for specialised treatment.
The cost-advantage that the city offers has also contributed to its attractiveness as a healthcare destination. No doubt, the state capital is positioning itself as a favoured destination for medical tourism.
A resurgent West Bengal is keeping no ends unplugged to market the state as a hub of medical tourism in SE Asia.
The 510-bedded ‘Apollo Gleneagles Hospitals’, the multispecialty tertiary care hospital is touching thousands of lives and transforming their hope into reality. It has metamorphosed into a centre of excellence in various disciplines including neurosciences, orthopaedics, cardiology, gastroenterology among others.
It is the only hospital to receive NABL certification in six separate categories namely clinical biochemistry, clinical pathology, haematology and immunohaematology, microbiology and serology, histopathology and cytopathology.
Recently it added another feather on its cap when it launched the globally renowned “Cellvizio Technology” for the first time in India that provides physicians and researchers high-resolution cellular views of tissue inside the body.
CMRI has fully renovated and upgraded the facilities at the hospital. The NABL-accredited pathology department of the hospital has been fully upgraded to international standards. It has set up ‘Center of Excellence’ in major disciplines likes gastroenterology and GI Surgery, orthopaedics and joint replacement, women and child care, cosmetic and plastic surgery.
Fortis Hospital, Anandapur has scripted success stories in cardiac, urology, oncology and nephrology related treatment and surgery.
AMRI Group, the largest healthcare group in this part of the country is running four hospitals in Eastern India. The group is re-positioning itself as one of the fastest growing healthcare players of the region. Over the last one year, the group is slowly re-building itself, starting two new units in Kolkata and Bhubaneswar.
The Tata Medical Center, the cancer hospital of the Tata Group has completed 100 stem cell transplants by April 2014 since it started in December 2011. The availability of state-of-the-art support department including the blood bank, microbiology, biochemistry, molecular biology, HLA and haematology laboratories is what has made this possible in such a short time.
Mercy Hospital, one of the oldest private-run hospitals in the city is setting up ‘Mercy Clinics’ in different parts of the state to provide affordable medical services to the people living in the district towns of the state.
RTIICS, the leading multidisciplinary hospital of the region has set benchmarks in cardiac care and now concentrating on other disciplines. The second biggest department at RTIICS after cardiac as of now is nephrology. It performs 3500 dialysis and 40 kidney transplants per month with the best clinical outcomes which is the highest numbers any hospital does in this region and maybe one of the highest in the country.
Columbia Asia is successfully operating in the city. Medica Synergie Group’s Medica Superspecialty Hospital is performing several life-saving cardiac, neurological and nephrological surgeries.
The Cath-Labs of BM Birla Heart Research are performing coronary angiograms, angioplasties, stent implants, pacemaker implantations routinely. Technically demanding procedures like bi-ventricular pacing and ICD implants are also being performed.
Woodlands Hospitals is moving at a rapid place, which will help in strengthening its foothold in the city.
Today, the most advanced eye-care facilities are available at city’s Dr Nihar Munsi Eye Foundation, Sunetra Family Eye Care Center, BB Eye Foundation and at Priyamvada Birla Aravind Eye Hospital, a joint venture between the MP Birla Group and Aravind Eye Hospitals, Madurai. Sankara Nethralaya is fully operational in the city.
Peerless Hospital and BK Roy Research Center has been credited with performing pioneering surgeries like knee joint replacement, hip replacement, shoulder replacement, spinal surgeries, etc. which are availed off by the patients not only from the state and the region but also from neighbouring Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan.
NH WestBank Hospital on the other side of river Hooghly is providing advanced medical facilities to the people residing in the twin-city of Howrah and its neighbouring areas.
With the increase in the number of private beds in the city, there would be a demand for more qualified and trained nurses, besides para-medical staff and technicians. So, most of the private-run hospitals are putting much stress on academics and training aspects. Almost all the leading hospitals are either running or setting up their own nursing schools to impart nursing education. Many others are offering DNB courses for doctors in different specialties.
Industry watchers feel that in order to build the city as a healthcare hub, we have to sustain the ongoing development initiatives and ensure implementation of correct policy objectives.
So it is clear that, today West Bengal has repositioned itself as a forward-looking state. Though there are a few grey areas specially in the public sector, which need immediate attention, the changes on the ground has started showing results.
Future road ahead
There is a widening gap between demand and supply of private beds in the region. According to a recent study, which studied the demand supply situation taking into account the local demand, demand from neighbouring districts and countries, Kolkata is projected to face a massive shortage of beds in the coming years. So it is evident that there is a huge untapped potential for growth of this sector in the region and with the cost of advanced medicare increasing day-by-day in other parts of the country, Kolkata will be at the hub of healthcare activities in the coming years.
We have brought out this exclusive issue in our series of publications showcasing the strengths and even highlighting the areas, which need immediate attention and what the future holds for us.
The industry circle is optimistic that the city would soon establish itself as a hub for advanced medicare. With big money flowing in, a steady infrastructure and active support from the government, it can only be sunshine!