Ajay Rajan Gupta is a consultant orthopaedic surgeon, based and working out of London, UK. NRI Achievers met up with him to seek out some details about the project he and some of his peers have embarked upon in India, which aims for good, affordable health-care for all. We bring you here some excerpts from the conversation we had with him.
Tell us something about yourself … since how long have you been in the UK and what are your future plans ?
“It’s now been 7~8 years that I am in London now. I am basically from Patiala, Punjab, and I have just turned 40. I got my first basic doctor’s degree from Dayanand Medical College, Ludhiana. At that time, I was very keen to acquire higher surgical training, which India at that point didn’t have, and I was also keen to train in London which considered the mecca of orthopaedics. Today, working in London on Harley Street, money is never a problem for me. My issue is really a commitment to my country & homeland, and I am very passionate about giving good health-care to society. Having worked in India, in hospitals here and then in the UK, I have a fairly good idea of healthcare systems in various parts of the world. And there is no reason why the Indian people can’t have free, good quality health-care. That’s what I want to come here and contribute in getting that set up.
“We would like to establish a public health-care system that will stand on four pillars, or the four “A”-s, which are: Affordable, Available, Appropriate, and, Accountable. Health-care inflation is currently running at 20~25%, making it out of reach for 70% of the population. Almost 80% of people are getting impoverished due to health-care costs. Second is availability. In India, 70% of the population is rural, and the health-care infrastructure is all urban. Third is accountability, in the form of a more robust Medical Council of India, and a well-accepted process that can hold doctors accountable. Fourth is appropriateness. A lot of patients are over-diagnosed, under-treated or over-treated in India, for financial considerations. These are the issues we are hoping to address.”
So what are the target areas for your project?
“Our primary target areas are the government sector health-care infrastructure in the states. We have a focus on the northern states right now, as we felt we should first do a proof of concept via a pilot project and showcase what good health-care is, and then establish further linkages with the other states. As most states in India are demographically comparable to entire countries in Europe, it is patently difficult to succeed with a pan-India project without the necessary footwork. So we plan to start with Punjab first. In February this year we had signed a memorandum in London with the Health Minister of Punjab, our next meeting is with the CM in November, when the British team will also come over, and all financial details will be drawn up. So the project should be up and running by January 2014.”
Is this a personal initiative of yours or is there a team behind this?
“There is a whole team behind this project, the initiative is called “UK-India Health-care Co-operation”. All of us have traveled to India at least 3~4 times, and we have held consultations with several key decision makers at the highest levels in the country. Secondly, there is proactive involvement of the UK government, via the British Department of Health. So GOI is involved, the UK Govt. is involved, and we, as Diaspora, are also involved.”