“Indian healthcare scenario will improve significantly”

Mentioned Dr Alok Roy, Chairman, Medica Group of Hospitals in an exclusive interaction with the BioVoice where he shared his views on the issues surrounding healthcare sector in India  


The latest edition of Face to Face features Dr Alok Roy, Chairman, Medica Group of Hospitals, one of the fastest-growing healthcare chains in eastern India, with hospitals in West & North Bengal, Jharkhand, Assam and Odisha.

Being a doctor and an administrator, Dr Alok Roy brings in the added advantage of an insightful understanding of all the detailed requirements in the running of a hospital. His experience of over 25 years has led him to evolve into a reputed hospital management specialist. He has also served as the President of the prestigious Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) a 150-year-old institution. The Integrated Telemedicine and Tele-health Project and the Yeshasvini Health Insurance Scheme are some of the ventures led by Dr Roy. The latter has been even studied by Harvard for its ingenuity and scale of implementation.

In this exclusive interaction, Dr Roy shared his views on the key issues pertaining to the healthcare policy in India. Read on:

What do you think of Ayushman Bharat scheme or the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana, as it is called? Has there been an improvement in healthcare after its launch?

Dr Roy: The Ayushman Bharat has been a big hope for Indians. It infact has been looked at as a big hope by the healthcare professionals and common public alike. It’s a big hope for a healthier nation. It is for the first time where the government anywhere in the world decided to support people who can’t afford healthcare in such a massive way. It is a huge step forward.

It’s a big dream. For realizing it, we have to take baby steps forward for its proper implementation. And there will be challenges. Challenges are an integral part of any dream. That’s normal. But I am sure with the nation coming together as private and public healthcare can ensure that we achieve this. It is achievable but may take time. I am positive that in coming years, healthcare scenario will improve significantly.

How do you view the state of healthcare in India?

I would say it is becoming better with each passing day.  I am optimistic about huge improvements with upcoming technological interventions.

How can we increase private equity within the healthcare sector? What are your expectations from the government?

Let’s look at the problems first, and then we can find out the solutions. Our current problem is lack of manpower. Do we have enough trained manpower in India? Do we have doctors, technicians, nurses etc.? Answer is, no we don’t have!

However, we are privy to some of the decisions taken by the government recently. The new bill which has been put forth by the health ministry will revolutionize the human resource component in healthcare. The Prime Minister spoke on the issue of lack of human resources in healthcare in his address from Red Fort on the occasion of independence day. He expressed his commitment towards the improvements. He is encouraging people to increase the number of seats in medical institutions, encouraging stakeholders to start building more hospitals.

Looks like this will help in time to come. There is certainly a positive movement. We have never seen such positivity and commitment towards this sector since independence. Government is putting its action where its mouth is. When they talked about Ayushman Bharat or PMJAY, they did that. So when they are saying they will change the situation about human resources, I am sure they will do it as well. They have come with this bill, which is good.

On the negative side, few will oppose and at the same time, few will appreciate. Eventually, it will be positivity that will take over.

So, are the teething issues over with the PMJAY? How has been it performing so far?

As proof of concept, it has run for a year without any hitch. Now the second step is how to beef it up, strengthen it which they are doing very well.

I think they have good thoughts and every journey starts with a thought for change. When you think of going home, then only you get up. They have a plan to provide healthcare to all sections of society and have initiated their activities in this direction.

There is a huge hope from this government by the people and the way healthcare is rallying all of us, I think it’s going to be a healthier nation.

What about the lower healthcare allocation in the budget? Is any change expected next time?

It has improved. It was earlier 0.9 percent of the GDP now it is 1.6 percent. Remember the main allocation is from the state. Two-third from the centre and one third from the centre. Even if centre gives funds, the states have to be ready.

Health is a state subject and now for GDP to increase state has to come in and there are coming in too. So from 0.9 , we have got 1.6. We expect 3.5 percent and for that, if we finish 2.5 percent, we are still better.

But our neighbouring countries are doing even better? For example even the Bangladesh and other Asian nations such as Thailand fare better?

They have been traditionally investing in healthcare for a long time. We have started and that is the positive trend.

The digital technology is making its presence felt big time. There are new apps being launched. Does it work on the ground?

It is working on ground but the problem in these areas is the lack of trained manpower. We need trained people.

At the same time, when there is a big opportunity, the vacuum doesn’t exist. There will be many new startups and new technologies. Few will fail and few will succeed.  But another day, the person will make it.

Are we doing better is healthcare research? We don’t see any quality publications in the medical field?

The breakthroughs are not happening and you are right on that. However, while it may not be so yet but everybody will be encouraged in the direction once we cross the other roadblocks. For that to happen we need to plug in the gaps in the existing infrastructure. We are trying to first prioritize the basics and then focus on the other issues and that’s fine.

What are the top trends that we should be looking for in healthcare in India?

You should look for  Ayushman Bharat and increase in quality human resources education and training in medical sciences. The increase in the number of seats for MBBS, MD and nursing too will be a trend to be watched as these will change the course of action.

The outlook is amazing and I am highly positive.