What started off as just a small clinic 37 years ago has taken the shape of a healthcare organisation today in the eastern region of the country. Sanjay Prasad, President & CEO of Mercy Hospital, Kolkata, in an interaction with Elets News Network (ENN), talks about the past journey, present initiatives and the future roadmap for the Mercy Group a healthcare brand that has earned peoples trust over the years.
How has been the journey of Mercy Healthcare in the last 37 years of its existence?
Over 60 years ago, the late Rev. Dr. Mark Buntain and Rev. Dr. Huldah Buntain, along with their one year old daughter Bonnie, arrived in Calcutta, now rechristened as Kolkata. They saw the needs of the city and started an education and feeding program. When a frail girl fainted at a school that Mark had founded, he rushed her to a city hospital in search of emergency help. Startled by the hospitals congestion and inability to meet the medical needs of the city’s poor and sick, Mark vowed that day to medically treat the underserved of Kolkata. His vision began with a small clinic. After several years of strenuous work and multiple miracles, the plans to build a larger medical facility began to take shape. In 1977, Mark opened the doors of Mercy Hospital (formerly AG Hospital & Research Centre), a sevenstory general hospital devoted to serving the medical needs of Kolkata.
The Mercy Group has a dedicated team of Doctors and Nurses and partners with long standing well wishers, donors and education based institutions from across the globe. What started as a small clinic in the back of a building has now expanded to a 173-bedded multi specialty hospital, a school of nursing, diagnostic centre and a footprint of outreach Mercy Clinics serving the outlying areas of Kolkata in the states of West Bengal and Orissa. Over 40,000 needy people receive free healthcare treatment every year through our medical network. As we move into the future, we plan to expand our services to include a College of Nursing and 40 Mercy Clinics to carry on our founders original dream of serving the underserved.
How has healthcare in Kolkata and the eastern region evolved? What are the key features of the segment in the region?
Once a premier destination for medical care, Kolkatas reputation as a medical hub suffered major setbacks in the 70s. This is a city that had nurtured legendary doctors, like Bharat Ratna Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy, an accomplished physician and academician, who established the Indian Institute of Mental Health and Infectious Diseases Hospital; Dr. A. K. Basu, who successfully performed the first cardiac surgery in this country at Nil Ratan Sarkar Medical College & Hospital; and Prof. A. K. Saha, who performed his leading experiment on the dislocation of shoulder joint at acity hospital, to name just a few. The city gave the country its first medical college Medical College & Hospital, Kolkata. The public hospitals in Kolkata, be it SSKM, Kolkata Medical College or Nil Ratan Sarkar Medical College, were a melting pot for the best clinical acumen and a crucible for medical treatment and research, in the heydays of 1960s, which set new benchmarks for other institutes.
The citys healthcare landscape got a second round of boost in the decade beginning 2000 with the establishment of new national and international groups of hospitals. In the last decade though there has been an influx of corporate hospitals albeit not in very large numbers. These are professionally managed groups, bringing in state of the art equipment and infrastructure, and have successfully been able to attract good medical talent from overseas. With a strong focus on Quality and Accreditation this signifies a time of overall upliftment in the services.
Today, the momentum has picked up further. The existing hospitals are scaling up their bed strength, setting up multiple units in the city and exploring alternate revenue models for augmenting profitability which in turn is a vindication for those that have been investing in healthcare as an industry.
However, there continues to be a glaring gap between the demand and supply in this region. The city does not cater to its population alone. The reach is the entire state, neighboring states and neighboring countries like Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan. According to a study, Kolkata is projected to face a massive shortage of beds and other healthcare infrastructure in the days ahead, as the city is strategically located and is considered as the gateway to the East. It is also gradually becoming the hub for medical tourism, especially from the countries located near the eastern border.
What are the specific operational areas of Mercy Hospital and where does it see further opportunities for growth?
Mercy Hospital, a multispecialty, tertiary care hospital currently is rationalized to around 170 operational beds. Through the network of Hospital, OPDs and Outreach Clinics, approximately 100,000 patients are being served every year. The hospital offers a variety of services, including a complete surgical facility (general surgery, orthopedic, obstetrics, gynecology and neurosurgery), a critical care suite including ICCU, ITU, Level II NICU, SICU & HDU, a mother and child centre, an emergency center, and general medical and surgical centers. It offers the entire suite of services offering round-the-clock emergency, trauma care supported by more than 100 consulting doctors, an efficient laboratory and diagnostic facilities, and a 24-hour pharmacy. The West Bengal Government has empanelled Mercy Hospital as a Class-I Medical Service Provider. It is also among the very few private hospitals in Kolkata affiliated to the West Bengal Health University for research activities.
In the area of education, Mercy Hospital has collaborated with Christian Medical College, Vellore and is successfully running the Masters in Family Medicine (MFM) program for doctors since 2008. The ongoing efforts have also resulted in Mercy Hospital becoming the only host centre for Certificate Course on Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (CCGDM) in collaboration with Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) and Dr. Mohans Diabetes Education Academy. Mercy Hospital operates a school of nursing that was started in 1979 under the West Bengal Nursing Council and recognized by the Indian Nursing Council. At present, work is underway to develop a College of Nursing. Also, work is in progress to start a Masters in Hospital Administration program from this academic year.
As an established academic institute, what academic collaborations have been made by Mercy School of Nursing?
Mercy School of Nursing began operations in 1979 under the West Bengal Nursing Council. The school is recognized by the Indian Nursing Council and thoroughly prepares women for careers in healthcare. Nurses graduating from this program are highly sought after by both public as well as private hospitals due to the high standards of education received. Since its inception, almost 500 students have graduated and are working as registered nurses in India and overseas.
The school while providing qualitynursing education also enables its students to have international exposure through its partners like Azusa Pacific University, Northwest University, Skbvde Gymnasium School of Nursing, etc.
With a well-established presence in the healthcare segment, what is the future roadmap for Mercy Healthcare?
The healthcare system in the country has been developing rapidly and will continue to grow in the next five years. It will increase its reach, services and will witness a significant rise in investments and expenditure in both public and the private sector. As per estimates, it will grow at an average of 14-15 per cent CAGR over the next fiveyears to touch $280 billion by 2020.
Mercy Hospital is looking at increasing the number of beds to meet the rising need as well as strengthen the Mercy Clinic network by increasing number as well as facilities in the outreach clinics. Another aim is to achieve excellence in imparting training and education. Towards this, the hospital is looking at strengthening the infrastructure for international structured training for nurses and also hospital management students, which is the need of the hour. The team Mercy Hospital is committed to provide personalised tertiary care, wherein medical outcomes would be the pathway to further build the brand. Focus will be on service quality, patient safety, infection control, antibiotic stewardship and working towards total patient delight.
How does the group aim to contribute and achieve the aim of Healthcare for All?
For India as a nation, health issues like malnutrition, infant mortality, infection control, overpopulation are real issues and the healthcare system remains overburdened. The Centre and the State governments have realised the importance of spreading healthcare to the remotest parts of the country. Mercy Hospital is also aligned with this responsibility. The ethos and history of the hospital, commitment to provide free and subsidized healthcare to 40 percent of its patients, and innovative leadership combine to make Mercy Hospital a model healthcare network.
To realize these objectives, Mercy Hospital has nurtured and sustained a unique healthcare delivery model at three levels: a structured free care delivery model through a network of 20 rural clinics, a lower cost and subsidized treatment model delivered through partnerships collaborated through six urban community clinics and a competitively marked to market priced delivery model for sustainability through the multi-specialty hospital.
It has been heartening to note the developments in the healthcare space inthe state, being spearheaded by the Chief Minister. We wish her and the entire team all success as she puts in place a program for development.
What are the policy interventions that the healthcare sector in the state needs to align with the healthcare objectives at large at the national level?
Despite rapid economic growth over the past two decades, the budgetary support to and expenditure on healthcare still remains low. India spends about 1 per cent of its GDP on public health, compared to 3 per cent in China and 8.3 per cent in the United States. But hopes are high that the new government at the Centre would upgrade the basic healthcare infrastructure and make medical services more affordable for the underserved in the coming five years.
According to a recent study, the patient aspirations are also fast changing. Invigorated with a rising disposable income and third-party payment mechanisms like health insurance, Indian consumers are growing more aware of their healthcare needs, demand quick response, less waiting time. Patients now demand better quality care but at the same time they do not want to travel long distances. So, these factors will certainly fuel the growth of the healthcare sector in the coming years and the State Government has already started taking care of these by initiating multi-specialty hospitals as well as critical care facilities in the districts with all modern equipment available in the district hospital. We sincerely hope that this will reduce referrals to city hospitals to a great extent in future.
Breaking the conventional model of business, the coming years will see great out-of-the-box thinking by the strategists in the field of healthcare, beginning with the way healthcare is delivered. To begin with, a rise in retail clinics, single specialty, and secondary and tertiary care centers have started playing a dominant role. The tier II and III cities will become attractive to thehealthcare players, especially because of the tax sops and increasing disposable incomes among Indian families across the country, accentuated by the dearth of quality healthcare infrastructure in these locations.
Technology has also played a crucial role in bringing quality in healthcare, be it better nursing communication systems, patient monitoring devices, imaging or telemedicine to provide low cost diagnosis to remote patients, etc.
What steps can be taken to align the objectives of the Group with the national mission of Skill India?
The fast-expanding domestic healthcare industry is the third largest employer, but is critically short of manpower. Healthcare in India needs more trained manpower, be it doctors, nurses or paramedics. The private players and the Government need to work hand in hand to strengthen medical education in the country. Our respected Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi launched the Skill India campaign on the occasion of the first-ever World Youth Skills Day, which included the launch of the National Skill Development Mission and unveiling of the new National Policy for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship 2015.
As mentioned earlier, one of Mercy Hospitals aim is to achieve excellence in imparting training and education. Towards this, the hospital is looking at strengthening the infrastructure for world class structured training to nurses and also hospital management students, which is the need of the hour.
In conclusion, through the collective wisdom of the Governing Board of Directors, an eminent Advisory Council and a dedicated team of professionals, Mercy Hospital is committed to providing Compassion with Excellence. The journey over the last four decades has been satisfying for the organisation. The future looks bright.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful citizens can change the world. Indeed, its the only thing that ever has. Margaret Mead