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Scrutiny
  
The Krypton dilemma
We were meant to be a nation of healthy, fit & disease free billion; our government ensured that that didn’t happen... And there arose one of the biggest gold-mine opportunities for private enterprises – the Indian health sector
19/04/2007

Krypton was where their son was born; the planet that his parents assumed would protect their newborn child, nurture him, and make him live a fulfilling life. Ironically, Krypton was the very planet that not only consumed all of its citizens in an explosive finale of self-destruction, but also forced the child’s parents to pack him off in a spaceship as a last ditch effort to save their only child, before dying themselves. The child escaped, and grew up in an alien planet – Earth, in this case. Ironically, it was here that he became Superman, an invincible hero with super powers, whose only nemesis remained Kryptonite, the remnants of his home planet, exposure to which could kill him instantaneously.

They say fiction mirrors reality more than one could believe. A billion plus Indians would stand evidence for the same, living a life worse than fiction on a daily basis, what with their own home country’s ‘Kryptonite-laden’ successive governments – who were supposed to protect them and nurture them to become global superheroes driving our economy to fantastic heights – providing a majority of them shameful and most dismal packages of healthcare services.

a nation betrayed

Indian governments have historically spent between a ridiculously low 0.2% to 2.5% of GDP on healthcare (current being 1.39% – Economic Survey data); a far call from the 5-6% followed by benchmark countries. Consider this: According to India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF), in a country of 1,000 million and above people, there are only 870,161 beds in a meagre 5,097 hospitals. Presently, there are 503,900 certified doctors and 737,000 nurses churned out by a miniscule 162 medical colleges. Reprehensibly, as per WHO figures too, there are just 10 beds for every 10,000 citizens and less than one doctor per 1,000 people (see related national story in Scrutiny).
It is also estimated that India needs to spend a colossal $49 billion to reach China’s level of sustainable healthcare, which itself is considered underdeveloped by western standards. At present, there is a shortfall of 920,000 hospital beds for the masses. Shares Aditya Bahadur, Executive Officer (Healthcare Services), CII, with B&E, “The situation is worse in case of tertiary beds. To meet the expected demand by 2012, an additional investment of Rs.100-140 billion is required. An additional 750,000 beds will be required (from 1.5 million now to 2.25 million in 2012), of which 150,000 beds need to be tertiary beds.” And that is where lies one of the most fantastic opportunities for the private sector in India.

‘public’ healthcare:

it’s a ‘private’ matter

Looking at the brighter side, the private sector in India is home to the best medical facilities in the world. Growing at an enviable 25% annually, CII research confirms that medical tourism in India (primarily in the private sector) is worth $350 million and is expected to reach an estimated $2 billion within the next six years. Riding on unbelievable cost advantages over its developed cousins, the Indian private healthcare sector has obliterated competition with a skilled and contemporary manpower-technology combination. For example, even for a normal bypass surgery, B&E research shows how India enjoys a tub thumping 361.5% cost advantage over the same surgery in US.

Today, like everything else in India, even healthcare is profit-oriented. The government is focussing mainly on primary healthcare in India; ergo, corporate India has taken the secondary and tertiary healthcare routes, which are fast becoming the cash cows of the sector. IBEF shows how, with an average healthcare cost of $4.3 per person, private healthcare in India is nearly 50% more expensive than the public system.

By:- Edit bureau: Karan Mehrishi
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