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www.expresshealthcare.in INSIGHT INTO THE BUSINESS OF HEALTHCARE
July 2010  
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Value Add

Tamil Nadu- A Healthcare Paradise

Lying in the southernmost part of the Indian Peninsula, the state of Tamil is the fifth largest contributor to India's GDP and the most urbanised state in India. The state has the highest number (10.56 per cent) of business enterprises in India, compared to the population share of about 6 per cent. It is one of the foremost states in the country in terms of overall development.When it comes to healthcare, Tamil Nadu's reputation as a centre of excellence far exceeds other states.

"Healthcare in Tamil Nadu has earned a good reputation in the country because both the private as well as the Government hospitals are doing so well," says Dr V Mohan, Chairman, Dr Mohan's Diabetes Specialities Centre, Chennai.

However, a decade ago, hospitals in Tamil Nadu did not venture for sophisticated medical equipment due to the prohibitive cost. Experienced doctors were also not available for handling these hi-tech devices and to meet the emerging needs of patients who came for undergoing treatment for various ailments.

Financial institutions and banks were giving loans only on a selective basis and that too at higher rates of interest, unlike now when banks are vying with each other to offer loans for purchase of medical equipment at attractive and reduced rates of interest. These were detrimental factors in the past. Thankfully, the scenario has now totally changed. In the last few years, Tamil Nadu has started catering to more advanced care.

The cost of healthcare has also become considerably low in the state. According to Dr S Aravind, Administrator, Aravind Eye Hospital, Madurai, the advent of health insurance and State Employee Health Insurance (Star Insurance) have also ensured that advanced care is accessible to more people. "The State Government also approved the below poverty line insurance and with this help, the advanced care has become really accessible to that segment of the society." Several medical colleges, medical education and research institutes and healthcare centres contributed to the success of the healthcare industry in the state.

Says Dr G Bakthavathsalam, Chairman, KG Hospital & Post Graduate Medical Institute, Coimbatore, "Tamil Nadu has a potential of around Rs 10,000 crore in the hospital sector delivery and Rs 5,000 crore in the medical equipment sector annually."

The Hubs

Healthcare development first started in Chennai, a city that had a population of 4.34 million in the 2001 census. Apollo Hospital, Chennai was the first corporate hospital to be set up in Tamil Nadu and is still considered the role model for healthcare across the country. Other behemoths like Sankara Nethralaya, Madras Medical Mission, Sri Ramachandran Medical College (SRMC), Chettinad Health City, MV Diabetes and Dr Mohan's Diabetes have also significantly contributed to the city's healthcare landscape.

It is not just the bigger cities like Chennai who are dominating the scenario. Coimbatore is another city which is growing at a rapid pace with already the presence of four multi and super-speciality hospitals and a number of diagnostic laboratories, CT scan centres and MRI scan centers mushrooming in the city. As Coimbatore is transforming into medicity with four multi-speciality high-tech hospitals and more than five to six speciality hospitals, it has become a gateway for patients from neighboring states of Kerala, East and North-eastern India, and also for the foreign nationals. The city is also developing as a big IT hub with players like TCS, Wipro and Cognizant putting their offices. "Moreover, the Coimbatore Airport is coming with an international airport, which will give further impetus- almost 30 to 40 per cent increase in the healthcare business in the city," shares UK Ananthapadmanabhan, President, Kovai Medical Centre Hospital, Coimbatore.

Besides, Aravind Eye Institute in Madurai and Christian Medical College, Vellore have given the development a thrust

Medical Tourism

The state is blessed by a number of holiday spots, viz Ooty and Kodaikanal. Consequently, medical tourism has been gaining prominence rapidly in the state with five per cent of patients coming to Coimbatore and Chennai from other states. Every year, without fail, it witnesses patients (mainly from West Bengal and the North East) streaming into this state for its quality patient care services, experienced specialists and state-of-the-art infrastructure. Another five per cent of patients come from neighboring countries like Malaysia, Singapore, Maldives, Middle East and Bangladesh. Most of the western countries' patients prefer Chennai due to excellent air connectivity. Estimates suggest that around five lakh people from rest of India, apart from 40,000 foreigners have visited the state for various medical treatments in 2008.

"A small percentage of these patients also come from Kerala, Kolkata and North Eastern States to take treatment in Coimbatore due to excellent facilities available in the city," says an expert. The paying capacity of the people has also increased, leading to smaller cities having infrastructure to do more complex surgeries. A bypass surgery in Chennai will cost roughly around Rs 1.2 lakh while the same surgery in Mumbai will cost around Rs 2 lakh. Chennai with 750-odd hospitals and nursing homes cater to nearly a lakh of patients each day.

EH News Bureau

 

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