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Monday, Jul 21, 2003

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Bangalore going global on cardiac care

Madhumathi D.S.

The price of a bypass surgery, sources say, ranges typically from Rs 94,000 at Manipal to Rs 1.25 lakh at NH or Rs 1.1 lakh at Wockhardt Hospital & Heart Institute — while it would cost Rs 3-5 lakh in Delhi or Mumbai. It would be comparable to Chennai or Hyderabad.

Bangalore , July 20

PAKISTANI child, Noor Fatima, came to Bangalore on the Lahore-Delhi bus last week and made it famous for yet another reason. The two-year-old Noor's parents chose the city for her difficult open-heart surgery and she is today happily recuperating at Narayana Hrudayalaya here. Yet another Pakistani baby, the hapless Babar, was also there at the same time. Noor is their 61st patient from Pakistan and many more keep pouring in from Asia and Africa, says Dr Deviprasad Shetty, renowned cardiologist and founder-MD of Narayana Hrudayalaya.

Has Bangalore gone global on the cardiac care scene? "It's a 100 per cent international hi-tech heart care destination," assures Dr Shetty. It should be, as the city has the country's highest density of corporate hospitals and nine exclusive cardiac care hospitals, agrees Mr Rajesh Pandey, Senior Manager and spokesman for Manipal Heart Foundation.

Heart care majors such as Manipal and NH which perform at least 1,000 surgeries a year each, get patients from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Tanzania and Zambia.

Bangalore's heart hospitals, with their professional managers, corporate culture, super specialist doctors and modern infrastructure, says Mr Pandey, are giving a tough fight to Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai. "The numbers could have been better if we had more direct international flights."

According to Mr Pandey, the high competition among the city's heart hospitals has sharply brought down their pricing, which is a major attraction for patients. The price of a bypass surgery, sources say, ranges typically from Rs 94,000 at Manipal to Rs 1.25 lakh at NH or Rs 1.1 lakh at Wockhardt Hospital & Heart Institute — while it would cost Rs 3-5 lakh in Delhi or Mumbai. It would be comparable to Chennai or Hyderabad. The Government-owned Jayadeva Institute of Cardiology would cost much lower at around Rs 60,000 while a recent entrant, the non-profit Sri Satya Sai Hospitals, offers only free services. Surgeries are also sponsored in some centres like Bhagwan Mahavir Jain Cardiology Centre. Among the specialist cardiac hospitals are Sagar Apollo, BMJ Heart Centre, Mallya, Trinity Hospital, Bangalore Hospital and St. John's.

The Healthcare consultant and Director of Kritical Healthcare, Mr A. Srivathsan, differs. "The inflow of patients from other countries has been marginal, most of it from one neighbouring country (Bangladesh) into one hospital. I understand that discussions are going on with the UK National Health Services, which has a long waiting list of patients for heart surgery, to send them to India. If that happens, one interesting market will open up for Bangalore's heart hospitals. But there will also be stiff competition from Chennai, Delhi and Mumbai," which, he says, are way ahead of Bangalore. The nine heart hospitals of Bangalore totally rake in an estimated Rs 100-120 crore a year, which is around 5 per cent of the current Indian cardiac care market of Rs 2,000 crore as estimated by a recent McKinsey report. "This", Mr Srivathsan says, "is not a desirable statistic for a global venue."

Delhi remains the referral centre for the entire North and the North East. For him, Chennai, with its Apollo, Vijaya and Madras Medical Mission, would fit the bill better in the South. Kerala, too, has a fairly developed cardiac care infrastructure in centres like Sri Chitra Tirunal, KIMS and Amritanandamayi, he says.

Though major hospitals like Manipal, Hrudayalaya and Wockhardt "process a significant number of patients, the patient handling capabilities of some of the others are limited or are not fully used," he says.

In Mr Pandey's view, the IT boom and a growing corporate culture brought several senior executives to Bangalore and along with them, several cardiac and other specialists too. The medical expertise here is as good as or better than anywhere else in Asia. Mr Srivathsan, however, says most of the procedures here are fairly routine, but hospitable Bangalore perhaps "is special in the way it treats people (as) its guests." When it comes to economics, cardiac care hospitals would any day score over general hospitals. A mid-size 100-bed heart care centre can turn over Rs 25-30 crore in annual revenues compared to Rs 5-10 crore that a general hospital does. The bottomline, unanimously, is heart-warming. Only provided the centres can overcome the problem of getting good cardiologists and surgeons, tags in Mr Srivathsan. The McKinsey report projects an all-India growth up to Rs 5,000 crore by 2012 and Bangalore can easily raise its share to a healthy 10 per cent of it. And for that, he says, all the local heart centres should put in a concerted promotional effort to attract more patients from abroad.

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