Special Correspondent

Bangalore: Narayana Hrudayalaya has announced its plan of launching 5,000-bed health cities in all State capitals, in a phased manner, to provide “quality healthcare” to the poor.

Speaking to presspersons here on Wednesday, Devi Shetty, chairman of Narayana Hrudayalaya, said that Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw of Biocon will be partnering it in the project that hopes to provide 20,000 beds in the next five years. Without spelling out the exact investment involved, he said that providing a 500-bed facility would cost about Rs. 200 crore. AIG Investments and JP Morgan are private equity investors in the project.

These health cities, he said, would hope to provide an “alternative to Government hospitals for patients who stand patiently in long queues”. Arguing for public-private partnership in healthcare, he said that soon State Governments will concentrate on “offering health insurance rather than healthcare to their citizens”. There is a huge opportunity for private players in healthcare and they could attract talent.

Dr. Shetty said that the effort was not to replace the public healthcare system, but to supplement it. Several governments, including the Karnataka Government, have provided land at subsidised rates to the project and pitched in with insurance schemes such as the Yashswini scheme in Karnataka, he said. The large infrastructure and volumes in the health cities, Dr. Shetty said, would ensure subsidies for those who cannot afford specialised care. About 75 per cent of beds in these health cities will be in general wards.

Ms. Shaw said that there was a need to “dissociate quality healthcare from affluence”.