Dr Narendra Kumar Pandey, Chairman and MD, Asian Institute of Medical Science (AIMS) was conferred with the prestigious padma Shri award for his outstanding contribution in the field of medicine and surgery. He was also awarded the prestigious Dr B Roy National Award in the year 2005. Dr Pandey, in conversation with our correspondent Ekta Srivastava, ENN, shares his vision on making treatment affordable to everyone.
After being recognized with prestigious awards for outstanding contribution to the field of Medicine and Surgery, what is the roadmap ahead to take your vision further?
After having spent a lifetime in healthcare, my energies are focused on AIMS as a brand. The aim is to consolidate the group and take it further. The company is already in the process of starting a green field project in Tier III city of Palwal. Plans are also foot to put up a 100 bedded hospital in Delhi- NCR. Another project which is very much on the cards is at Patna (that’s where I had my preliminary medical education) for which we are looking to acquire land and scouting for the right partners.
With your wide experience in medical education, what is your take on rural posting of doctors?
In my opinion, we are handling it the wrong way. How can we compel them to go to rural areas when we cant provide them with basic amenities like infrastructure and safety? What about educational facilities for their children? These are the major hurdles to he problem of shortage of doctors in rural areas. Unfortunately, even after so many years of Independence, we don’t find any reorganized rural area where a doctor can go and work peacefully without bothering about the day to day problems of life.
In addition to addressing the issue of basic amenities, what we need to really do is to build in incentives for working in rural areas. ask any doctor and you will have your answer. We also need to fill in all vacancies in government hospitals and medical colleges and have rotational posting for shorter duration once we have improved the infrastructure. This will result in better distribution of manpower and eventually result in giving better care.
Do you think that the advancements in technology are reaching the masses?
No. The majority of the Indian population still does not have access to basic healthcare, forget about the advanced technology. your first priority should be to make healthcare accessible to all. We have been making plans only on paper (Health for all, now the target is 2020). With the change in Government, I sincerely hope that we shall be able to achieve this target.
Also, please remember that all these technologies are good servants but bad masters. We still need doctors to be physically available because healthcare is personal and not something which can be run through remote control.
What are the major challenges that our country is facing in providing better healthcare?
The government spends only a miniscule amount on healthcare in India. Private players are the major contributors today and they can only survive if it is profitable. A large majority of the population cant afford treatment at these hospitals. Even the middle class finds it difficult. If they do, they can sometimes land up in the BPL category as they have to sell their assets. The problem is that insurance penetration is still not up to the mark (barely 10 to 15 percent). Even if we include all the government agencies which provide free health insurance schemes like ESI, CGHS, ECHS, etc. it is still insignificant. We need to improve on this.
Another problem which the healthcare sector is facing today is a gross shortage of qualified personnel whether it is doctors, nurses or technicians. We are just not producing enough doctors because there are not enough seats in medical colleges. The quality of medical education has gone down substantially. There is no good faculty in most of the medical colleges. And to op it all, it can cost a fortune to do medicine from a private medical college. I think it is high time that the government took stock of the situation and revamped the Medical Council of India which should be given the powers to monitor medical education and improve its quality.
At one time, nursing as a profession was not very popular especially in Northern India. However, now in places like Haryana, UP, Rajasthan, Punjab, more and more people are joining nursing colleges. So we will have more trained nurses who can speak the local dialect and there would be less communication problems between patients and nurses. Unfortunately, these nursing colleges are not up to the standards and unable to provide proper training. I think the Nursing Council of India needs to be given more teeth. The same is true of the colleges providing training to technicians (radiographers, laboratory technicians, OT, CSSD etc.). We would really need to improve our standards of training if we are to compete with he rest of the world.
What are the key achievements that your hospital has witnessed so far?
We are a relatively young organization but very quality conscious. We started our operations in February 2010. The standards or quality were set from the designing stage itself. As a result we were able to get our NABH accreditation in the shortest span of time (June 2011). We got our NABL accreditation in 2012. Our hospital was voted as the seventh best hospital in Delhi NCR by The WEEK (The WEEK “ Nielsen best hospital survey 2013).
Our aim has always been to provide quality care with empathy and compassion because we strongly believe that the simple gestures of kindness are often the most meaningful. There is very strong emphasis on training because we would like to foster an environment that is nurturing and because of our belief that every staff member contributes to the overall patient experience.