Apollo Hospitals plans to ride the next wave of growth with expansion in rural sector, Prathap C Reddy, Chairman, said. The hospital chain plans to add at least 14 Reach Hospitals in rural regions at a cost of ₹ 1,800 crore by 2016 and plans more in the coming years.

Reddy told Business Line that one of the benefits of tapping into the rural segment is the cost of setting up the infrastructure, which is lower by about 25 per cent as compared to metropolitan cities.

The focus on Reach hospitals has been recorded in the company’s annual report for the financial year ended March 31, 2014 as well.

“Despite the ability and the willingness to pay for quality healthcare services patients in these areas are forced to opt for moderate or sub-standard facilities for lack of a better alternative. These catchment areas can prove to be low hanging fruit for healthcare service providers who are able to offer quality healthcare services with excellent clinical outcomes,” the company stated in its annual report.

The company had earlier said that it has received board approval to invest ₹ 2,100 crore for expansion over next three years.

Reddy said, while talking about the Reach initiative, “First for the patient, travel and expenses are reduced. The expenses of coming to a metropolitan are too much.” Further, he added that the reduced development cost helps the hospital focus more investments into patient care.

“We are asking for the same status as IT sector has received. In IT, they (Government) gave cheap land, gave tax breaks. And look at how much the sector has achieved for the country. We can also do similar things in healthcare if they give land. If I have to buy land in Delhi, the cost has to be passed on to the people,” he said.

Reddy, who was celebrating 15 years of India’s first successful liver transplant, which had been done at Apollo Hospital, also said that there was an urgent need for increasing awareness on organ donation. The Indian Department of Posts released a commemorative stamp on the occasion.

Reddy said that India’s record in terms of organ donation is very poor as compared to global levels.

In Spain there are 32 organ donations per million, in US 25 per million, UK 16 per million and 3 per million in Mexico. As compared to this, the figure for India stands at only 0.6 per million.

Ravi Shankar Prasad, Minister of Communications and IT and Law and Justice, who launched the commemorative stamp, also called attention to the problem of illegal organ trading and urged the healthcare industry to work on curbing the same.

The Minister also said there was an urgent need for using digital infrastructure in healthcare for reducing healthcare costs and making them accessible to the common man.