Dr Ashok Malik, Director, Sarvodaya Hospital, Ghaziabad, discusses with ENN’s Rajesh K Sharma about how healthcare is getting more expensive.
Please tell us something about Sarvodaya hospital.
Sarvodaya hospital was started in 1987 as a 25-bed hospital. It was the first hospital in Ghaziabad. It is now a 150-bed hospital. Last year, we startedanother 150-bed super specialty hospital, having Cardiology, knee transplant, etc. Last month, we performed five knee transplants.
What are the services that you provide at your hospital?
We provide Urology, Neurology and Gastroenterology services. In fact, we perform all surgical procedures except Cardiothoracic. Should the patient require super-specialty care, he/ she is shifted to our super-specialty unit which is nearby.
How many patients do you see every day?
We get about 70 to 80 patients every day across all departments.
How do you counter the threat of nosocomial infections?
Since most infections are air-borne, we ask the staff to cover their mouths with masks, and ensure that they keep their hands sanitised all the time. As far as our medical instruments are concerned, we use auto-cleaning to clean them.
What sections of society does Sarvodaya Hospital serve to?
We serve all sections of the society. We have different category for each section. In fact, even for the lower classes, we provide air-conditioned general wards for as low as `1,500 per day, which is quite cheap. As we move higher, the quality of offering improves.
Are the benefits of medical technology within the reach of poor?
Benefits of medical technology have not touched the poor, and we are aware of that. Government hospitals do not work properly and their services are not proper. Besides that, they also face shortage of manpower. That is why, we aim to provide affordable healthcare to the lower class as well as the middle class.
In the 12th FYP, the government has laid emphasis on healthcare…
The problem is not with the government initiative. It has to do with the lack of good doctors. Most doctors join the corporate hospitals or get into private practices.
The government is promoting telemedicine and mobile health through its National Health Mission. Do you think these initiatives have been successful?
I think all this is wastage of money by the government. They don’t have the manpower for such an initiative. Also,the people are not interested in these initiatives. They want a clean and neat place, where they can go to for treatment of their ailments, rather than remotely talking to the doctor on phone.
How can private hospitals help in providing healthcare to all?
Healthcare is becoming expensive, but at the same time, the educated people are getting medical insurance through their employers. This makes healthcare available to them.
But not everyone has medical insurance…
Most salaried people have medical insurance provided by their employers.
How important is medical insurance to running a hospital now-a-days?
It is very important. In fact, nearly 10 to 15 percent of our treatments are paid through medical insurance, and this figure will only rise in the future.
The government is promoting the PPP model in providing healthcare. Is Sarvodaya Hospital also looking to partnership with the government?
I feel the government’s PPP initiative is still in its initial stage. For a start, government bodies like Employee State Insurance (ESI) and Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS) have started recognizing private hospitals in addition to he government hospitals. This way, even the less privileged patients can avail themselves of our facilities.
But CGHS has been plagued with mounting dues towards the hospitals…
That is true, but it is a different issue altogether.
What are your views on the advances in medical technologies?
As time goes, one has to adopt newer technologies according to the economy and the needs of the patient.
Is the rising cost of healthcare investment making basic healthcare even more expensive?
Yes, that is true. The government does not provide any help to the healthcare providers. We have to pay commercial rates for the land on which we build our hospitals. We pay house tax according to the commercial land. The
taxes that we pay are also quite high. In addition, we have to pay for electricity at commercial rates as well as pay employees their salary, and contribute towards their provident fund. With such high expenditures, we cannot afford to make our services cheap.
What are the positive changes in medical practice that you have seen in your vast experience?
In the last 27 years, the average duration of the patient’s stay in hospital has come down because of the medical advances like endoscopic and laparoscopic equipments. It is now down to just one or two days. This benefits the patient immensely. He can be on his feet sooner after a surgery. This benefits the hospitals also, because after three days, the patient’s stay becomes a burden on the hospital. With modern technologies and equipments, we can perform a diagnosis as soon as the patient reaches, and perform surgery on second or third day itself. By ensuring fast treatment for less serious patients, we can also concentrate on treating the chronic patients, who stay in hospitals for a longer time. During this time, the patients have also started asking for a better infrastructure and better facilities from us. Due to this, we are always on our toes in keeping our facilities up to date.
“I feel the government’s PPP initiative is still in its initial stage. For a start, government bodies like ESIS and CGHS have started recognizing private hospitals in addition to the government hospitals.”
Has the nature of ailments that you have been treating changed in the last 27 years?
No, there hasn’t been much change. Even earlier, we treated lifestyle-related ailments in our OPDs. I haven’t seen any rise in the number of cases in our hospital.
What are you expectations from the new government regarding healthcare?
Since we are governed under the UP state government, a change at the centre does not affect us directly. However, if the government wants to help private hospitals, then it must provide us with cheaper land, and also lower the taxes on medical equipments. Only then will we be able to provide cheap treatment.