For the past three months, Popat Pawar, 23, has been searching for a hospital in the city that will provide affordable treatment to his three-month-old daughter suffering from a congenital heart defect.
Pawar’s daughter, Mayuri, needs urgent surgical treatment to correct a complex heart defect in which the veins of her lung are connected to the right side of the heart instead of the left. “I cannot afford to get my child treated in a private hospital,” said the Thane resident who works at construction sites on daily wages.
When Pawar approached the civic body-run KEM hospital in Parel, which treats complex cardiac cases among children, he found that it had a waiting list of more than 200 children awaiting surgery. “Mayuri cannot wait that long,” said the distressed father. Pawar’s problem has been compounded because only four of the city’s 15 major private hospitals have the facility to treat such children.
According to healthcare experts, while corporate hospitals are investing heavily in specialties such as adult cardiac care, cancer treatment and orthopaedics, fields such as pediatric cardiology, trauma and emergency medicine, and burns care are being neglected.
“In India, while nine lakh cases of cancer are detected every year, about 2.5 lakh children are born with birth defects of the heart. Almost every private hospital has a cancer department, but hardly any has a specialty ward to cater to the needs of these children,” said Dr Suresh Joshi, pediatric cardiac surgeon, Fortis Hospital, Mulund.
The expansion plans of most city hospitals underscore this trend. Fortis Raheja Hospital in Mahim recently setup a high-end cardiac care unit, Dr LH Hiranandani Hospital in Powai collaborated with International Oncology Services Pvt Ltd to start a full-fledged cancer centre last year. Global Hospitals, which is expected to come up in Lower Parel in early 2012, will focus on orthopaedics, cardiac care as well as liver and heart transplants. The Asian Heart Institute in BKC, which is primarily known as a cardiac care hospital, is investing in areas such as minimally invasive surgery, orthopaedics and cosmetic and reconstructive surgery.
“These specialties have higher prevalence and also higher return on investments,” said Dr Vivek Desai, managing director, Hosmac India, a healthcare services provider.
Some specialties such as emergency services and burns care are missing at private hospitals largely because of low returns on investment, say doctors. Hospitals do not invest in burns treatment as it requires a separate ward and high investment in infection control. Also, burns patients have to be reported to the police, a formality which doctors in the private sector are keen to avoid.
“There are less than 100 beds available at three private hospitals in a city like Mumbai, and almost 70% of the burns patients are being treated in small nursing homes, which lack adequate facilities required to treat serious burn injuries,” said Dr Sunil Keswani, cosmetic and burns surgeon, National Burns Centre, Airoli, Navi Mumbai.