Free Press Journal

Health Check! Why Mumbai’s medical services are among the best in the country


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Mumbai, the financial, commercial and entertainment capital of India, is also believed to be its health capital by many. The city does not only have the best of private hospitals, but, arguably, has India’s best public-health infrastructure. From the time JJ Hospital came into existence in the year 1843, Mumbai has been ahead of most Indian cities in healthcare services and is the country’s fastest growing medical hub.

Dr Bipin Chevale, Zonal Director, SL Raheja Hospital, Mahim – A Fortis Associate reminisces, “Mumbai has historically always been the health capital of India. This is because of the availability of medical education institutes, talent, and numerous private and charitable trust hospitals of repute that deal with various sections of society, locally and from across the country. Additionally, there were various small-time nursing homes run by entrepreneur doctors, which supported a lot of the population at affordable price points. The last decade and a half has also seen the emergence of corporate hospitals. This, coupled with the growth of medical insurance, led to an exponential evolution of super specialisation, cutting edge technology, marketing strategies and competitive pricing strategies which helped bolster growth and development at a faster pace.”

JJ Hospital and Grant Medical College is arguably one of the earliest full-fledged hospitals in India. Post that a number of private and public hospitals have started operations in the city. Among the private hospitals that have been here for decades are Bombay Hospital (1950), Hinduja Hospital (early 1950s), Jaslok (1973) and Lilavati (1978), Wockhardt, Fortis, Hiranandani, Apollo, Kokilaben, HN Reliance, and SL Raheja became part of Mumbai’s healthcare spectrum a little later. The key government owned hospitals in the city are Sir JJ Hospital (1843), Lokmanya Tilak Municipal General Hospital (1947), R.N. Cooper Medical College and General Hospital (1969), Tata Memorial Hospital (1941) and King Edward Memorial Hospital (1926), and the civic run BYL Nair Charitable Hospital.

As per the estimates, public hospitals in Mumbai can serve more than 20,000 patients and private hospitals can handle over 22,000 patients every day. A World Bank study, however, states that Mumbai’s existing health infrastructure was planned between 1950 and 1980 to cater to 5.2 – 7 million people, while the facilities are currently used by about 13 million people.

Population congestion, hectic lifestyle and pollution are the key factors impacting Mumbaikars’ health today. Add to it the increased lifespans, and one realises that there is merit in the World Bank report. Santosh Marathe, COO, Apollo Hospitals, Navi Mumbai expresses, “We need good qualitative growth as against quantitative growth. Unless payments or reimbursements are linked with outcome, the paradigm shift will not happen. This needs a very stringent and sustained enforcement through regulatory authorities. There is definitely a need for more world class providers in and around Mumbai, given the fact that the 2 tier and 3 tier cities’ healthcare services are yet not matured. The public health services there are still questionable in terms of the quality of health, and lastly international patient segment is untapped market for Mumbai.”

Chevale adds, “There certainly is room for more hospitals in the city, especially in growing suburbs which are population dense, and face a dearth of quality super-speciality hospitals. More so, there is room especially for hospitals that would offer specialities like Cardiology, Orthopaedics, Neurology and Oncology. Secondly, these could also bear the influx of people coming from tier 2 and tier 3 cities who seek better facilities or are looking for a second opinion.”

True that. In spite of there being the best of medical facilities in the city, and top-notch conveniences for medical tourists, Mumbai has not been able to make a place for itself in the medical tourism space. That, in spite of Mumbai hospitals, both private and public working towards offering services for medical tourism at very cost-effective rates. People looking for cheaper options explore other cities in India where peripheral costs are lower and the ones with money head to countries in the West.

Marathe spells out reasons for the same, “The medical tourism segment is still more inclined towards the tourism part, as against the medical aspects of services. Though there has been a decent increase in JCI accredited healthcare set-ups, the market still continues to be flooded with touts and agents who unfortunately govern the market for most of the small stand-alone hospitals. There are very few credible players in India and in Mumbai who have really worked with respective countries, embassies and consulates to fill the gap of most relevant healthcare needs for that region while also assuring continuity of care through local camps, medical education and staffing skill development initiatives in the respective countries.”

Chevale has a number of concrete recommendations that can enable Mumbai’s growth in the medical tourism space. “What is ideal, is that all healthcare providers come together, are backed by government agencies and organisations like Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI), Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), etc., to showcase expertise, advanced infrastructure, transparent pricing, leverage talent pool; this will help bolster Mumbai’s medical tourism,” he suggests.

“Introduction of progressive concepts such as tele medicine and online consultants should be deployed. This will significantly reduce the logistical burden on the patients, who would otherwise have to travel considerable distances to get access to doctor consultations,” he adds, “This way, only those in need of surgery, and those with progressive medical conditions would be required to travel to these tertiary care hospitals for intervention. With this deployment, the patient pool can be divided geographically and doctors, nurses and support staff could also travel to these areas to provide aid.”

Meanwhile JJ Hospital, which is a popular healthcare centre for domestic patients from other cities of Maharashtra as well as other states, emphasises that public hospitals too are getting ready to welcome medical tourism. Says Dr Sanjay Surase, Medical Superintendent, JJ Group of Hospitals, Mumbai, “We are upgrading everything and planning an exchange programme for medical graduates and post graduates. Procedures are coming up at university level also. So, this centre would be well equipped for medical tourism.” He elaborates, “It is one of the most important referral centres for super speciality care. We offer best of super speciality facilities like transplant, plastic surgery, urology, nephrology, cardiac, paediatric, neuro surgery. We have a Geriatric OPD, and in the very near future we are coming up with a geriatric ward too. We would soon come up with a hospital that would look at very specific specialised areas. We also plan to offer air ambulance services. I believe all government hospitals are trying to offer best of services at minimal charges.”

Home healthcare services as well are gaining momentum in the city. The new home healthcare services provide professional care and convenience. Key players in the city at the moment are Portea Healthcare and Medwell Ventures which acquired Nightingales Home Health Services and Care 24. Even hospitals like Apollo have forayed into the home healthcare market.

Marathe sums up Mumbai’s healthcare market succinctly, “It is evolving and the existing and few forthcoming infrastructure projects would aide and propel the growth. The quality of consultants and care providers that we credential and train, sustain the whole quality pathways of care. India and Mumbai in particular definitely leads the path when compared with the South Eastern Asian market.”