One-stop-shop for all kinds of implants at reasonable rates

HLL Lifecare Ltd., a government of India enterprise, will open a series of Lifecare Centres in the State through which it will directly procure and sell various medical implants, expensive surgical consumables as well as life-saving cancer medicines at margin-free rates.

This is a novel venture by the public sector giant, which has been diversifying into various areas in the healthcare industry such as medical infrastructure development and diagnostics in recent times.

The first of the Lifecare Centres is expected to start functioning at the Medical College Hospital (MCH) here within the next two to three weeks and will operate as a one-stop-shop for all kinds of implants at reasonable rates. HLL has already been allotted space near the old casualty of the MCH, by the side of the main road, which has been refurbished and now sports the signboard with its trademark blue and pink colours.

The facility will primarily benefit all patients in the MCH, especially those requiring various orthopaedic and cardio-thoracic implants, who have so far been depending on touts and agents to purchase these devices for them and often at exorbitant rates.

The State government had entered into an MoU with HLL last year regarding the setting up of these margin-free outlets for medical implants in Medical Colleges, which do not have a streamlined system for procuring and supplying medical implants required for the treatment of its own in-patients.

Succour for patients

The new and upcoming HLL outlet will cater to the general public's requirements for implants, surgical consumables and post-surgical implements too.

At present, it is the responsibility of the patient or his relative to procure the medical implant and hand it over to the treating doctor. Even though there are a host of companies manufacturing various implants and surgical consumables, these were not available at a single source. As most of the patients coming to the MCH are poor and have little information on the availability, quality norms or cost of the implements required, racketeering by middlemen and agents in the sale of implants has been thriving in the hospital.

Allegations about several unethical practices, of unholy alliances between doctors and distributors, ‘cuts' and commissions have been around for years now. It is a fact that several implants and drugs are being sold at a margin of 300 to 400 per cent through agents. In one instance, an injectible drug for cancer patients, which actually costs Rs.8,000 was sold at Rs.28,000; an orthopaedic implant costing Rs.3,000 was sold to the patient at Rs.9,000, according to sources at the MCH.

“Our market enquiries revealed that the stents required by the Cardio-thoracic Department, which actually costs Rs.35,000, is now being sold to MCH patients at Rs.55,000,” a senior HLL official said.

The HLL plans to start off its margin-free outlet with the sale of all implants required by the Orthopaedics Department, which actually forms a chunk of the requirement for implants in any hospital. In phases, it plans to add the requirements of other departments like Cardio-thoracic Surgery and Neurology.

“We will procure our stocks directly from the manufacturers, with an accent on quality certification. There will be no tendering process involved as we intend to sell various brands of every item at our store, after discussing with the doctors regarding the preferred brands. As there are no middle men involved, we expect to sell the items at least 25 per cent less than the current market rates,” he said.

“The biggest advantage for the public will be that all kinds of implants and surgical consumables will be made available at a single source, at reasonable rates. We will open more outlets in the State depending on the response to the pilot project at MCH. We do not know how the market will react to this new venture,” the official said.