With the number of cancer patients in India likely to double in a few years, B.S. Ajai Kumar, oncologist-turned-entrepreneur and chairman and CEO of Healthcare Global Enterprises Ltd. (HCG), one of India’s largest cancer care providers, has batted for introduction of universal healthcare model in India to save lives.
Stating that going forward, China and India will have the highest incidence of cancer, he said all patients should be treated properly.
“In India, the problem is that we don’t have provision for universal healthcare. We have certain healthcare schemes for poor people. So, today, over 50% of the patients are paying from their own pocket. So, naturally, it becomes very expensive,” he said.
“In U.S., if you get cancer treatment done, it would cost between $30,000 to $40,000. Here, we are doing it for less than $8,000. The problem is that even if people are paying ₹5 lakh, they are paying from their pocket. But if you go to Singapore or the West Aisa, the ₹5 lakh here is going to be ₹50 lakh. So, it is very cheap here but people cannot afford [even] that. That is why we have recommended universal healthcare,” he added.
Dr. Kumar said the government has to create a universal healthcare model for the entire country.
“My frustration is that we have not done that yet. Unless we do that the existing schemes will not help. People are dying because they do not get the right kind of treatment,” he said.
“We have to bring that quality. Like I am a Medicare recipient and have a Medicare card in the U.S. When I was young, I contributed for this and India has so many youth. Why can’t they contribute? Their contribution can go for universal healthcare pool,” he further said.
“So, billions of dollars will be there and people can benefit from that. There will be uniformity in care. When you become old, you can benefit. That model has to be created. I don’t know what is coming in the way of that model,” he added.
On his company’s growth plans, he said there were opportunities to grow in India, West Asia and Africa.
“But right now, we want to consolidate. Because we have grown too much, we want to consolidate and then get into the growth phase again. We would like to go the asset-light model. We are also coming with models wherein we will not own the equipment,” he said.
He said his priority would be to reduce the company’s debt of ₹650 crore debt by improving EBITDA and profitability.
In the next five years, the company wants all his existing 24 centres and the new ones in the pipeline to achieve full capacity utilisation. Besides, the company is looking at operating and managing models and also areas where in it can provide its expertise to cure cancer.
“The entire Africa is a huge opportunity to provide our people and give them good quality treatment. We are looking at the partnership model like we have in Nashik. We want to grow through partnerships. Since I grew rapidly, I want to consolidate first,” he said.-The Hindu