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‘We take a lot of pride in projecting our hospital as a highly responsible organisation’

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Peerless Hospital, one of the oldest and most trusted hospitals of Eastern India, has been a major provider of tertiary care services to a large number of patients. Dr Sujit Kar Purkayastha, Managing Director, Consultant Gastroenterologist, Peerless Hospital And B K Roy Research Centre, in an interaction with Sanjiv Das, elaborates more on the group’s future development plans and how it has transformed healthcare scenario in Eastern India

Tell us about the outlook for Indian healthcare industry by 2020. What learnings can India adopt from international healthcare systems?

Healthcare industry is growing at an unprecedented rate and market size has gone up to trillions of rupees. The industry is growing at a rate of about 15-16 per cent every year and is expected to sustain this pattern of growth. It may be pertinent here to make a distinction between healthcare and healthcare industry particularly in the context of our country. International healthcare system, developed in the west, initially concentrated on improvement of basic hygiene, provision of clean water, improved sewerage system and major infrastructural developments. As a result, the disease burden in those countries became very different to ours. We have the highest number of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis, large number of cases with malaria, HIV, hepatitis B etc many of which are largely preventable. While we are still struggling with communicable diseases because of lack of basic facilities, we have also slowly acquired health problems, traditionally considered to be the diseases of the west. In the last few years, we have witnessed some efforts from the government like Swachh Bharat Abhiyan which has been long overdue. We must concentrate on public health issues much more aggressively if we seriously wish to improve our healthcare.

There is one other issue which does not always attract much attention. We lose a lot of skilled doctors to affluent countries. This profession is highly respected in countries like the UK with opportunities for professionals to constantly update their knowledge. It also provides an ideal work life balance. In contrast, in India, medical profession is going through a turbulent period and doctors are put in a very difficult situation by emotionally overcharged public and some sections of media, which result in verbal and sometimes physical abuse. If the outcome is not what is desired, doctors are presumed guilty without proper investigation. The public do not tend to realise that doctors can not cure all illnesses and there is a distinction between error and negligence. If right working environment is created, professional honesty is encouraged and the profession is appropriately rewarded then there will be a spontaneous reversal of movement from the west to the east. It is important for the government to ensure that healthcare is delivered to the neediest at the desired level which is only possible if we have a sufficient number of trained professionals. Growth of the healthcare industry is clearly important for the economy of the country but it should be at the supporting role in provision of healthcare.

What role would eastern India play in furthering the progress of the healthcare industry?

There has been a great deal of improvement in healthcare delivery in West Bengal both in private and public sectors. Many new hospitals for acute care have been established in tier 2/3 cities. The government has opened a good number of super specialty hospitals. A few new medical colleges have started functioning. Eastern India was behind south and western part of the country in the area of organ transplantation. West Bengal has now taken a positive step in that field and both heart and liver transplantations have been performed successfully. Kidney transplantation has been going on for a long time. New cancer care hospitals have come up with all the modern technology and expertise. All these are positive developments and will most certainly be able to provide excellent services not only to the state but also to neighbouring states and countries. There are plans to open All India Institute of Medical Sciences in West Bengal and other eastern states which are bound to improve healthcare quite substantially. Healthcare industry will be well placed to grow with expansion of healthcare services.

Tell us about the strategies adopted by your group to tap the growing opportunities in the healthcare sector.

Our hospital is one of the oldest and most trusted hospitals of Eastern India. We have been providing most of the tertiary care services to a large number of patients. However, even though we have excellent diagnostic facilities for cancer detection including a digital mammography machine, we were unable to offer the full range of treatment to our patients. The group has decided to fill in that void and plans are being made to open up a fully comprehensive, state-of-the-art cancer care wing within the next two to three years. Our hospital has started kidney transplantation and we are in the process of applying for the license to perform liver transplantation. Our strategy is not only to be a service provider but also a responsible trainer of future doctors. We are associated with a prestigious and internationally reputed organisation like the Royal College of Physicians in promoting medical education. Our core functional area is to give good medical care to our users and if we can provide that with complete trust and ethics, we will consider that we have done our job well. That will give us more opportunities to grow further and in the right direction.

Healthcare is increasingly moving towards a tech-driven future. What type of investments are happening in the technology sector to become future ready?

We are living in a technology-driven world and we use some kind of technology everyday of our lives. While this has changed the world, technology needs to be used in healthcare setting more discretely and appropriately. Use of technology can be very expensive and there may be some conflicts of interest. Its improper use may adversely affect socio-economic balance of a society. In western countries, healthcare and use of technology is either free to the patient or heavily subsidised through insurance. In India, even though insurance schemes are being taken up by many, there are lots of restrictions imposed on patients. It is not difficult to buy technology but we should be more careful of its implementation and our workforce need to be trained in using them. In today’s world, training is widely available and simply “on the job learning” for use of sophisticated technology may not be the right way forward.

We examine each technology as it comes, carefully and adopt them as per our need. Our latest acquisition has been PACS (Picture Archiving and Communication System) which enables to read X rays in different locations, report them quickly and allows easy access to the clinicians. It is possible to connect the system to remote satellite centres which benefits patients unable to visit the hospital. We are one of the very few hospitals in Eastern India to have acquired the digital mammogram. We all know that incidence of breast cancer in our country is rising and affecting younger women. This machine is able to detect early suspicious lesions more accurately. We have invested in a very experienced consultant breast radiologist who is spearheading our one stop breast clinic programme and is able to perform stereotactic biopsy. We have plans to complement the equipment with tomosynthesis and a very advanced ultrasound machine just for breast diseases.

In conclusion, we take a lot of pride in projecting our hospital as a highly responsible organisation which is keen to act in the best interests of our patients and not blindly follow any particular model. We are keen to mobilise perception of the society that modern treatment is very expensive and the best way forward for the masses is prevention of illness as we all know now that most of the non-communicable diseases including some cancers are preventable. The government has its role in improving public health to minimise incidence of communicable diseases. Healthcare should not be a gimmick but honest and affordable.

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