Healthcare@Mumbai is not-so-pink

Updated on: Apr 26, 2012

Major expansion, new projects are being undertaken, but better distribution of these across the city is the need of the hour

Armed with a bottle of water and towel in hand, it is not rare to see the Mumbaikar catching a breath of fresh air, running down the promenade alongside the sea at Marine Drive or walking briskly at the Mahalaxmi race-course.

Awareness on lifestyle-driven health concerns such as hypertension, obesity and diabetes is high. And the health-conscious in the city that never sleeps are trying to keep these concerns at bay through sheer physical activity and better lifestyle.

Rising demand

But as Mumbai's population increases beyond 18 million, so is the demand for healthcare facilities. The city is seeing an increase in hospital facilities through the expansion of existing hospitals and through new projects. But that is not enough, say representatives working with leading city hospitals. The need is for better distribution of good hospitals across the ever-expanding city, they point out.

Existing hospitals such as the charitable trust-run P. D. Hinduja or the Fortis-healthcare group managed S. L. Raheja Hospital in the private sector are seeing a massive scale-up in beds, facilities and specialisation. They are located in and around South or Central Mumbai.

In the Government-run space is JJ Hospital — whose corridors and lectures halls have been captured in one of Hindi cinemas' most thought-provoking comedies Munna Bhai MBBS . The hospital, that stands tall in the heart of the city, is also set for major expansion.

All hospital projects coming up in South and Central Mumbai are expansions at existing sites or previously committed sites through charitable trusts or the Government, observes Dr Vivek Desai, Managing Director of healthcare consultancy group, Hosmac India.

Govt incentives

As the population, affluence and bed-requirements go up in the city, the Government needs to step in with incentives such as subsidised land or tax incentives to encourage more hospital chains to brave prohibitive real-estate prices, he observed.

Echoing similar thoughts on the city being under-serviced when it comes to healthcare is Fortis Regional Director for the Western and Eastern regions, Mr Varun Khanna. The Government has to step into with “doable” partnerships as the city's demand increases, he observes.

Monsoons lash the city every year, and yet there is a shortage of beds every year during this season as infections increase, he says, illustrating his observation.

Dividing Mumbai into five zones, he says, the corporate presence is still poor — as South Mumbaiites get serviced by about 75 per cent of the city's bed-capacity.

Given the potential Mumbai has, it has not reached the position it could achieve, he points out, adding that this was sad as the city boasts the finest medical hands.

The city needs quality and standardised healthcare projects which are accessible to patients across the city. This will ease the rush of patients to the few hospitals at hand, besides attracting patients from neighbouring States as well, he adds.

Expansion drive

Over the last few years and running into the next few years, Mumbai will be seeing expansion at the P.D. Hinduja Hospital. A new “boutique” Hinduja Hospital at Khar, with about 110 beds and promising personalised care for the paying population has recently become operational. A makeover is said to be in order at the Sir H. N. Hospital, supported by Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Industries. And significant investments in beds, technology and resources are under way at Fortis-managed S. L. Raheja.

The Government-owned JJ Hospital is set to see massive expansion over the next three-four years, with a super-specialty 20-floor tower coming up at the existing location.

Other large additions to the city in the last about five years include the Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, Seven Hills Hospital in the suburbs and Saifee Hospital in South Mumbai. On the anvil also is a hospital project by Global Hospitals, scheduled to become operational shortly. Wockhardt has a project in Central Mumbai and Dr Devi Shetty's Narayana Hrudayalaya is setting up a 1000-bed children's hospital, at Haji Ali, also in the heart of the city.

As more hospitals mushroom, the city's healthcare profile too is changing, with people getting their procedures done in the country, than fly abroad for it, observes Breach Candy's Chief Executive, Mr N. Santhanam.

Willing to pay

In a growing economy, cities witness people opting for housing, complete with club-house facilities, swimming pool, and so on. Similarly, in large hospitals, the paying Indian resident is willing to fork out anywhere between Rs 8,000 and Rs 15,000 for a suite, he points out.

But Mumbai grapples with the paradox that confronts healthcare across the country — where a small section of people are able to pay their way through, while a large section are unable to afford and access healthcare facilities.

Hospital representatives, however, counter that they are taking some of the patient-load off Government hospitals, so the pressure eases and public hospitals are able to take in those who need treatment, but do not have the means.

Published on November 15, 2017

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