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Published on: Jan. 16, 2024, 8:12 p.m.
Medica to merge with Manipal to deliver quality healthcare
  • Lahiry with Debgupta: taking Medica hospital to new heights; Photos: Sajal Bose

By Sajal Bose. Executive Editor, Business India

Decades back, West Bengal had a poor reputation amongst its denizens for quality healthcare. The mistrust on doctors and dishonest business practices of some private hospitals forced a large number of citizens to go to the southern states of India for quality medical treatment. Vellore was on the top of the list among Bengalis. 

However, over the years, the healthcare system in West Bengal has undergone a major transformation. It has witnessed the development of specialised medical institutions and hospitals by private groups, equipped with modern facilities. These institutions offer specialised services in various fields. Besides, the state government also has implemented numerous initiatives to ensure accessible and affordable healthcare services for all. 

Hence, people from Bengal visiting South India today for medical treatment has become considerably less. Instead, the state has become a leader in medical tourism for Bangladeshis, as also patients from the north-eastern states of India. They flock to the numerous private hospitals and diagnostic clinics in Bengal because of the relatively low cost and comfort with the language and ambience. 

Medica Synergie Private Limited (Medica Hospital) was one of the first movers in the health care transformation of the eastern India. The NABH- and NABL-accredited Medica has emerged as a leader in the segment. Today, the Medica group of hospitals is one of the largest private hospital chains that has earned the reputation in terms of clinical, as well as technological, excellence.  The group’s flagship unit Medica Super-specialty at Kolkata is one of the premier hospitals in eastern India. 

The group now operates four hospitals with a total of 1,200 beds and is expanding. “We are continuously improving the operational excellence and looking at appropriate expansion in the eastern part of India,” says Dr. Nandakumar Jairam, chairman, Medica.

Having developed centres of excellence in various fields of treatment, Medica has taken a big leap by launching 140-bedded capacity advanced Cancer Care unit recently in Kolkata under the aegis of Medica Oncology. With an investment of Rs200 crore, the facility is housed in a 10-floor, specially-designed building that have the most modern infrastructure and facilities for advanced cancer care, with particular focus on ‘woman & child care’. The facility is managed by a team of highly dedicated doctors and surgeons, focussing on organ-specific cancer care, thus bringing to the city a modern and extremely effective method of treating cancer patients. 

“The hospital has introduced a number of new and cutting-edge technologies in the field of medical, surgical and radiation oncology,” informs Udayan Lahiry, co-founder & managing director, Medica, describing it as the region’s most advanced and comprehensive cancer treatment facility. The newly built advance cancer unit include a high-end radiation therapy facility, PET CT, therapeutic nuclear medicine and the first bone bank in this region, among other modern facilities. It has also set up an advanced lab, with latest pathological test facilities, such as immuno-histo-chemistry, molecular pathology and flow cytometry, among other high-end investigative tests.

Modern oncology unit

“Recent research has shown that Bengal is dealing with a burden of 2.5 million cancer cases, of which Kolkata alone contributes about 350,000 cases. By 2025, these figures are projected to go up by another 120,000. So, our state-of-the-art oncology unit will serve a large number of cancer patients,” says Ayanabh Debgupta, co-founder & joint managing director. “Our aim is to bring super-specialised cancer care at the doorstep of the people in eastern India. We expect to serve about 10,000 cancer patients annually, providing them with the benefit of availing the most advanced and effective treatment options,” he adds.

  • Jairam: focus on optimising the cost management

    Jairam: focus on optimising the cost management

Dr Sourav Datta, director, Medica Oncology, who heads the department, had earlier worked in Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai. The oncology unit was set up under his supervision, after he joined Medica in 2021. “West Bengal is under-served in oncology and a lot needs to be done. Ours is an integrated oncology unit. We do everything from robotic surgery to chemotherapy. It is the most modern facility in the country and can be comparable with Tata Cancer Hospital in Kolkata,” Datta claims. He leads a team of 21 oncologists, of which 16 are from Tata Memorial in Mumbai. 

The oncology unit of Medica has received overwhelming response since it opened its doors for the patients. The unit is doing 250 onco-surgeries per month and about 75 radiations a day. The number has been increasing every month. The oncology department is one of the highest revenue generators for Medica, bringing in 16-17 per cent of its total revenue and growing every month, Datta informs. 

Incidentally, the group’s first oncology hospital in Siliguri has been providing comprehensive cancer care to the north-eastern region for over a decade. It is now setting up another 50 bed oncology unit in Ranchi next to its existing super-specialty hospital.

Medica began its journey with the multi-specialty unit Medica North Bengal Clinic in Siliguri in 2008 and also set up its first ENT unit in Kolkata. The group launched its flagship hospital, the Medica Super-specialty Hospital, in Kolkata in 2010. Soon after, it started Medica Cancer Hospital in Rangapani, Siliguri, fulfilling the dire need of a comprehensive cancer facility in North Bengal, with advanced radiation therapy services.

Medica tied up with the Jain Samaj for Bhagwan Mahavir Medica Super-specialty Hospital in Ranchi in 2014. Tata Steel Medica Hospital in Kalinganagar, Odisha, began operations in 2015, as a multi-specialty unit in collaboration with Tata Steel. The cancer hospital in Kolkata is yet another feather in the group’s cap. The group is now planning two more new hospitals in Ranchi and Asansol. 

Medica group has recorded revenues of Rs615 crore in 2022-23 – increased from Rs599 crore in 2021-22. About 25 per cent of the revenue has come from the government’s medical initiatives, such as Swastha Sathi, Shishu Sathi, CGHS, ESI, etc. Cash and TPA together make about 55 per cent and the rest comes from corporate bodies. Medica has a long list of corporate tie-ups, including Air India, Coal India, Dabur, Balmer Lawrie, HUL, JSW Steel, IOCL, Reliance and Tata Motors, among others.

The hospital sector in India was valued at Rs7,94,000 crore in 2020-21, in terms of revenues and is expected to reach Rs18,34,800 crore by 2026-27, growing at a CAGR of 18 per cent. Increasing investments in the sector have triggered innovation in medical technology and healthcare management practices. The sector has seen several mergers and accusation as large hospital chains wants to grow inorganically and also spreading its footprint to Tier II cities, with the backing of large investors. The healthcare segment in India tends to offer an attractive investment opportunity for domestic, as well as foreign investors.

Merging Medica with Manipal

Singapore’s Temasek Holdings-owned Sheares Healthcare India is an investor in Medica Synergie since 2021, aiding fund expansion. Sheares Healthcare owns 89 per cent of the hospital, while the remaining shares are held by the founding members, doctors and corporate.

  • Datta: ‘Our oncology unit is one of the best in the country’

Sheares Healthcare Group owns and provides healthcare delivery services in Asia and around the world. It looks to build its portfolio of healthcare delivery assets by investing in healthcare companies, with strong management teams and proven track records.  Interestingly, Sheares Healthcare group also acquired 59 per cent controlling stake of the Bengaluru-based Manipal Health Enterprise Hospital. Currently, Manipal has close to 9,500 beds across the country, after it has acquired the Kolkata-based AMRI (1,200 beds) last year.

According to a reliable source, Sheares Healthcare, which owns majority stakes in Medica and Manipal Hospitals, now wants to merge Medica and Manipal Hospital into one and operate it as a single entity and increase its national footprint. Post-merger, Manipal may surpass Apollo Hospital, as the largest chain in India. 

The source also informs that due diligence is already in the process for the merger and a new amalgamated entity will retain Medica’s name for its strong brand equity in Bengal. Post-merger, it may be rechristened Manipal Medica Hospital. However, Medica’s management has declined to offer any comment on the merger issue. 

“As a long-term investor, we are also looking at other geographies as well for growth. Our moto is optimising the cost management to maximise our returns on investment and ensuring quality is delivered,” Jairam explains. In May last year, the investors had appointed Jairam as Medica’s new chairman. Earlier, he was chairman, CEO & group medical director, Columbia Asia Hospitals in India. 

Medica has seven centres of excellence – neurological diseases, cardiac sciences, orthopaedics, gastro-enterology & GI surgery, kidney diseases, critical care and oncology. All these centres are led by a group of highly skilled and renowned specialists and surgeons, who supervise over expert teams, providing comprehensive diagnostic and treatment facilities. The institutes are equipped with the latest technological advancements, enabling them to provide the best care for complex conditions.   

The hospital is one of the largest and most advanced critical care units in the region, equipped with modern facilities for dedicated and life-saving care, including ECMO, for medical and post-surgical patients. With 24x7 diagnostic back-up and specialists on call, the unit uses a multi-disciplinary team approach to ensure the best results for the patients. Medica’s ECMO centre is the largest in the country, with a dedicated team of ECMO specialists providing expert care to patients on heart-lung support, claims the management.

In-house comprehensive diagnosis services at the hospital include NABL-accredited lab (including molecular lab) and international standard imaging services. The state-of-the-art dialysis wing of the hospital is equipped with the latest haemo-dialysis facilities with ultra-pure water and round-the-clock specialist support. Medica’s rehab facilities are among the most advanced in the region, providing specialised support to patients recovering from surgeries and treatments requiring long hospital stays.

Medica Hospitals are run professionally. Doctors heading the departments have been given full power to take independent decision. “Our mission is to ensure that every patient receives the highest standard of care and treatment with utmost transparency. The idea is to create a safe and nurturing environment, where patients feel supported and confident in their journey to wellness,” Lahiry points out.

“Medica is a smartly designed organisation with focus on the best infrastructure and doctors. The group has mastered the art of retention of star doctors. Their doctors have deep-rooted commitment towards the hospitals that defines their success. Setting up the cancer hospital is an excellent move by Medica,” says Prashant Sharma, managing director, Charnock Hospital, Kolkata – a 300-bed Super Specialty Hospital.

  • New state-of-the-art oncology unit in Kolkata

There is a gap between demand and supply of healthcare beds in Bengal. According to the WHO norm, the minimum requirement is 3.5 beds per 1,000 population. Going by this calculation, there is need for more than 200,000 beds across Bengal.

Medica set to expand capacity in its Siliguri hospital, including the oncology unit. It is adding 60 beds to take the super-specialty beds to 200 and 50 beds for the cancer unit at a cost of Rs100 crore will be ready in 2025. It is perpetually running short of beds. “Expansion is the need of the hour for our cancer unit. Our unit is always overcrowded. On an average, we radiate 100 patients a day,” says Manish Goswami, deputy director, surgical oncology, Medica, Siliguri. 

Medica is also investing Rs50 crore for a 50-bed oncology unit in Ranchi, next to its existing hospital, which is expected to be operational by December this year. The other hospital the group is setting up is in Asansol. It will have a cancer-and-trauma-care centre with a total of 50 bed at the first phase. 

“Our expansion plans and future vision revolve around spreading our footprint across the nation and affordable treatment options accessible to all. Debgupta says, “Furthermore, with the growing emphasis on public-private partnership in the healthcare sector, we foresee increased opportunities to join hands with the government in our mission.”

Medica Hospital has started providing palliative care, within 15 km of the hospital for terminally ill patients, especially in the case of cancer, who still require care and treatment to get rid of the pain but are beyond treatment. “We are the first hospital to offer this service to the cancer patients,” claims Datta. Palliative care has a separate team of medical professionals including psychologists and nutritionists, and a fleet of vehicles. 

Medica’s merger with Manipal cannot be avoided. Once it happens, it will be interesting to see brand Manipal’s ability to adopt Medica’s philosophy on quality healthcare at an affordable cost and manage the growth.

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