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’Doctor nation’s ailments first’

Sunday 9 January 2005, by SEN*Saurav

MUMBAI: Health tourism may be the new buzz for the medical industry but the real picture is far from perfect.

India may have developed state of the art medical facilities in the corporate domain, but NRIs have questioned India’s continued inefficiency in sprucing the nation’s primary healthcare infrastructure.

A symposium on "Healthcare: Opportunities for Investment and Tie-ups" on Day II of Pravasi Bharatiya Divas had speakers from most corporate healthcare providers - Escorts, Max Healthcare, Fortis, Manipal Institute of Medical Science among others, who made glitzy presentations about their latest forays to delegates here.

But NRI delegates who posed questions, constantly left the panelists with little to answer, when they sought explanations on why the common Indian still doesn’t have access to a decent healthcare mechanism?

"Companies do need to look at the social perspective, but one needs to first figure out whom to hold responsible. If banks pay money to only those who can afford, corporate hospitals too follow the same formula and offer healthcare to those who can afford," said Shivinder Mohan Singh, joint managing director of Fortis Healthcare.

Many delegates have suggested to the government to attract foreign capital to firm up the nation’s primary healthcare.

"Let them ask NRIs to invest in hospitals in the rural sector. Let them get the basic government hospitals in order. Then we can look at super speciality hospitals. It is insensitive to scream from our rooftops that we offer best quality cardiac surgery to Americans at one-eighth the US rates, but we are unable to save a cardiac patient in our own towns," said Dr Meghna Desai from UK.

The Q&A session saw many NRI doctors who are attending the three-day event, offering to work in India and Indian hospitals if the right work environment is provided. "Let the government provide the environment, they will always get our expertise at hand," said Dr KC Rajendran from Tampa, Florida.

"While investing in the health sector doesn’t require any prior permissions, we will make sure that all stumbling blocks are removed at the state government or local body level for NRIs to invest in hospitals or speciality clinics," assured BP Sharma, joint secretary in the ministry of health.

Not just NRIs, but multinational healthcare providers are also willing to invest in India. Only the government needs to make it more investor-friendly.

"Do that, and then see, every Indian will have better and more cost-effective access to healthcare within 5 years," commented BR Shetty, CEO of the New Medical Centre Group in the UAE.

See online : Times of India

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