Private healthcare system in Assam, specifically in Guwahati, appears to be starting a new chapter of super specialty care, even as the public health care system continues to be crippled by red tapism and lack of adequate infrastructure. The concept of super specialty hospital was somehow limited to big metros. But now it seems that Guwahati, which caters to critically ill patients from seven states of the region, has joined that league. In last one year, more than three private hospitals have come up in the city, which promise to offer super specialty care to their patients. A super specialty hospital is defined as a hospital that is primarily and exclusively engaged in the care and treatment of patients suffering from specific illness. They offer specialized services to patients. Joining in the list of biggies are hospitals like Nemcare, Excelcare and Apollo Intertiol. It is very heartening to note most of these hospitals are being run by doctors who hail from this region. Many experienced young doctors have worn the hat of administrators, which has really brought a welcome change in the attitude of healthcare professiols towards patients. It would now be interesting to see how these doctor turned magers merge their commercial interests while providing best possible healthcare to the patients across the region. Surely, if they succeed in their endeavour, it will do a world of good to critically ill patients of the region who have to travel to far off places like Cheni and Delhi for better healthcare services. In fact, this new trend in healthcare sector could also set a ball rolling of promoting medical tourism by attracting patients from neighbouring countries like Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar. Guwahati’s proximity to all these countries makes it an ideal destition from patients from all these countries — provided all these super specialty hospitals live up to their reputations. That would also mean Assam stands to benefit hugely in coming years if Guwahati becomes the destition for patients from South and South South East Asia region. Inflow of patients from all these countries would mean inflow of much sought after foreign exchange, which would also help in boosting the State coffers.
For this vision to become a reality, all these super specialty hospitals first need to make a mark in the healthcare delivery system of the region by providing affordable treatment with a human touch. These hospitals have to reach out to ASEAN countries and showcase their strength in order to attract patients from neighbouring countries. Much has been talked about the Centre’s Act East policy and many potential sectors which could bring development to the region. One such sector is Medical Tourism, with public and private players from Assam needing to unleash the huge potential. While private investments in health sector needs an uptick, the government on the other hand could play a catalytic role by improving connectivity with all neighbouring countries. Medical Tourism is the next big story in India. Every year about 1,50,000 foreigners are visiting India for treatment purpose. Rightly realizing this potential, the Ministry of Exterl Affairs has set up the provision of issuing medical visas for those seeking healthcare in the country. In India, cities like Cheni, Vellore, Delhi, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Kolkata are the most preferred destitions for Medical Tourism. Guwahati could well be the next destition in that list. However, all is not well in private healthcare system — what with various issues related to proper healthcare delivery, particularly overcharging patients, needing to be ironed out. There has to be a combined effort by medical professiols along with hospital administrators to build up a clean image in the eyes of the public. Another area of concern is that in the absence of robust public healthcare system, poor patients finding no other altertive have to take refuge in private hospitals. But the costly treatment in private hospitals across the country is beyond the means of an average person. So it would be prudent on the part of hospital authorities in the State to jettison the profiteering mentality and provide healthcare as a noble service. The government on its part needs to explore with stakeholders how to institute an effective and affordable medical insurance policy that does not exclude poor people. Last but not the least, for Guwahati to emerge as the 'destition present’ for healthcare solutions, the young breed of doctor cum entrepreneurs, who have jumped into this burgeoning sector, needs to lead from the front and make the Gateway of the Northeast a world class health destition, particularly for South and South East Asia.