Moved by an insight gained during a vacation in India four years ago, a British citizen of Indian origin has launched an initiative that provides 22 hospitals across the country with the latest medical equipment to make cancer treatment accessible and affordable.
Shashi Kant Baliyan, who is in India for three years, recalls how his Diwali holiday here took a new turn after he attended a medical conference in Hisar in Haryana in 2009 with a friend, a radiation oncologist.
"I realized that people had to travel far for cancer treatment. Even then most hospitals in smaller towns were not equipped with the right equipment to treat them. I went back to Britain and discussed it with a few friends after which I started shunting between London and Delhi to do something concrete about this," Baliyan told.
Baliyan's ClearMedi Healthcare - a joint venture between Medipass (La Repubblica group) S.r.l. Italy, KOS S.p.A. Italy and Clearview Healthcare India - providing hospitals with the best equipment for diagnosis and treatment of cancer.
Hospitals, private or government-run, are also supported by trained manpower and its staff trained by specialists.
All this has helped cut costs by 50 percent or more.
"Among the equipment we supply are linear accelerators, radiology equipment and those used for nuclear medicine. We have focussed on cancer because of its high incidence in the country. Young people are getting affected by it and you cannot imagine the number of queries I get," said Baliyan, a doctor and a management professional.
According to the National Institute of Health and Family Welfare, there are 2 to 2.5 million cancer patients in India at any given time.
The equipment is maintained by his company on contracts that run 15-20 years till the machine outlives its life and becomes obsolete, said Baliyan, who lives with his wife and children in Gurgaon, Haryana.
"In two years, 22 hospitals in Delhi, Hisar, Vadodara, Coimbatore, Kolkata, Patna, Indore and Gwalior have signed contracts with us," Baliyan said.
In Delhi's Hamdard Imaging Centre (Jamia Hamdard), his company has supplied equipment for MRIs, CT scans, Mammography and Digital X-Rays, while Ashwin Hospital in Coimbatore has been equipped with a Linac (linear particle accelerator used for radiation therapy).
"Other than accessibility to diagnosis and treatment, our initiative has also cut costs for patients by 50 percent or even more as compared to any diagnostic centre. An MRI scan costs Rs.8,000 in a diagnostic centre, of which half goes to the doctor. We remove those frills and charge the basic cost," he said.
"In Delhi, the cost is half. In Hisar, the cost is one-third. The patient pays the hospital directly, not to us. So, there is no discrepancy."
A CT scan in a ClearMedi-aided hospital costs Rs.1,600. Elsewhere, the cost ranges between Rs.4,000 and Rs.5,000.
Baliyan also claims not to be led by medical equipment suppliers, into whose trap some hospitals have admitted to have fallen into, resulting in largescale procurement of non-upgradeable machinery.
"We have a clear focus - of accessible and affordable medical care to people mostly in tier-II towns, and are doing our best towards that endeavour. Enquiries from hospitals in different states are coming in.
"In Jammu and Kashmir, hospitals are hardly equipped with cancer care equipment. I have been invited to Srinagar. I am also visiting Assam and a few other states. Talks are also on for a public-private partnership in some places," Baliyan said.
Azera Parveen Rahman can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org