A hospital made of local material and by local people so that they accept it as their own: that was the guiding thought behind Guwahati’s GNRC Medical, says Nomal Chandra Borah, after he found that 80 per cent people in the region were outside the traditional hospital system.

Having run hospitals in Assam for over 25 years, Borah realised private hospitals were too expensive for most people. Though it may be a good business model, it cannot be the healthcare solution for the people of India, says Borah, GNRC Chairman and Managing Director. Taking a fresh look at local needs and armed with feedback from over seven lakh people in Assam, Borah embarked on his dream 300-bed hospital.

Locally available bamboo was abundantly used, says Borah, for the sans frills project, but without compromising on safety and quality, he adds.

Located on the north bank of the mighty Brahmaputra, the hospital attracts people from across Assam, other North Eastern States and neighbouring countries, says Borah.

In fact, the one-year-old hospital has been attracting much attention (including Bill Gates) for its low-cost effort to deliver affordable care, in a region where formal systems of healthcare are apprehensive to tread.

OPD-centric hospital

The hospital has no air-conditioners in its wards or OPD, but there’s one in the operation theatre, says Borah. This helped bring down the cost per bed to ₹25 lakh, compared to ₹50 lakh in a regular set-up.

“My aim was to create an OPD-centric hospital,” he says, similar to AIIMS (All India Institute of Medical Sciences). Admissions costs are minimum to keep costs low, he says, adding that for every patient admitted, five are checked in the OPD. Most hospitals are usually bed-centric, since earnings are high on admission, he explains.

GNRC Medical’s treatment and services are one-third the market price, says Borah, and its registration fee has been axed to bring in more people.

Its senior citizen services are priced at an additional 20 per cent less on the already reduced hospital tariff. And it started trauma and emergency services, where patients are treated free for the first 24 hours, he says.

Transport service

An added feature is its “medireach” transport service, where the hospital picks up and drops people coming from remote areas. Borah has not had a problem attracting doctors from across the country because of the access to a large number of patients, he says. At a project cost of ₹75 crore, the community-centric hospital hopes to break even by March 2016. This year was to consolidate financials and show it is viable, says Borah. Revenues come from the volumes, since the hospital is affordable, he says.

In one year, GNRC Medical has seen 45,000 plus people, more than the Group’s older hospital has seen in 27 years, he says.

Revenue factor

Trained in AIIMS, Borah set up his clinic in Guwahati in 1984, when Assam was facing much strife. In 1987 it was converted into a 130 bed hospital and in 2008 he set up a second, 80-bed hospital.

Borah is now ready to take the model outside Assam. Discussions are on for West Bengal, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. Already an empanelled hospital for Bhutan, proposals for Myanmar and South Africa are now on the 65-year-old doctor’s to-do list.