Sunil Kumar, the chief operating officer of Narayana HrudayalayaHospitals, starts off the interview with some mind-blowing figures:”In 2001 we had one cardiac hospital with 225 beds, this year werun 13 hospitals with more than 4.000 beds. Our aim is to buildhospitals in all Indian cities and offer 30.000 beds. We nowperform 7.000 open heart surgeries yearly.”
“In comparison”, adds professor Frits van Merode (dean sciencesand board member of Maastricht University), “In the Maastrichtacademic hospital we yearly perform 1.100 of such operations.”
The vision of Dr. Shetty
India is big, and therefore ‘big thinking’ is allowed in India.The clear need for better healthcare among the large part of thepopulation that is still very poor made dr. Devi Shetty (thefounder of Narayana Hrudayalaya )devise a scalable system ofsurgery.
Last year Dr. Shetty received The Economist Innovation Award fortaking a “Henry Ford-view” to health care. The juryproclaimed: “Dr. Shetty has shown that better health careneed not cost more. Better processes can make a huge difference. Heis renowned for his skill as a surgeon, but we are recognising hisadditional talent as an innovator.”
And quantity goes hand in hand with quality: The Economistpointed out that Narayana Hrudayalaya Hospital reported a 1.4 percent mortality rate within 30 days of coronary-artery bypass-graftsurgery, compared with an average of 1.9 per cent mortality rate inAmerica.”
It was Shetty that motivated Sunil Kumar to become involved inthe hospital-project. “I met him at a conference 22 years agoand I was very impressed by his visionary thinking. Ever since Ihave been part of his journey.”
Kumar mentions the story of a newly married couple that had ababy with a cardiac problem. “Surgery cost 250.000 rupiahs, that’sabout $ 4.000, and of course those parents don’t have that amountof money. It is an awful thing: you are tagging the life of thatchild with a price. There is no other solution to this problem thanbringing down the price of health care.”
Fraction of the average price
Bringing down costs is something that Narayana Hrudayalaya doespretty well: at this moment an open hearth operation is performedat the price of $2.000 euro, but the hospital is aiming at abreak-even price of $800. A quick internet search shows thatelsewhere in the world average prices run at $20.000.
The best of both worlds
The work of Narayana Hrudayalaya neatly fits in with the work ofFrits de Merode: “I used to work in Africa and India a lot, starteda project looking for the best hospitals of the world at the bottomof the pyramid. Hospitals that service not the rich, but the poor.”Mr. Kumar and Mr. Van Merode share the same motivation: the questfor making healthcare accessible to all people.
In 2009 Maastricht University and Narayana Hrudayalaya embarkedon a unique initiative to build capacity through partnerships. VanMerode: “We are building thematic research centres in India, basedon the best that both sides have to offer.”
“The concept of problem based learning has been veryinteresting for us”, adds Sunil Kumar. “This is very different fromwhat we are used to. It triggers innovative thinking.” On the otherhand it’s the innovative practice in the Indian operating room thatfascinates partners in Maastricht.
Van Merode: “In the last 24 months we have had more than a dozenresearch scholars from India working for their PhD with MaastrichtUniversity, and a few doctors are perceiving their full time PhDprogramme here.” Moreover Maastricht University has opened asubsidiary (Maastricht Education and Research Centre- MERC) inBangalore. The mandate for this unique India initiative is to buildpartnerships with the best in India and build top quality researchin select areas of social relevance.”
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