Often referred to as the father of modern healthcare in India, Dr Prathap C Reddy, Founder-Chairman, Apollo Hospitals, revolutionized the healthcare scenario in the country with setting up of the first 150-bed Apollo hospital in Chennai in 1983. Today, Apollo Hospitals has over 11,000 hospital beds in more than 70 locations in India and also abroad. Dr Reddy, a cardiologist and entrepreneur, is recipient of the Padma Vibhushan, the country’s second highest civilian honour. Keen to do something for his native village Aragonda and Thavanampalle Mandal in Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh, he has launched the Apollo Total Health programme there. Excerpts from his interview with Outlook:
Since you launched Apollo Hospitals in 1983, the healthcare scenario in India has grown manifold. Tell us something about your achievements.
It is a matter of pride that there has been tremendous advancement in healthcare in our country, in just over three decades. Today people of our country have access to healthcare of international standards and our fine highly skilled doctors are achieving clinical outcomes that are on par with the global best centres. Furthermore, the costs of advanced treatments are a tenth as compared to the western world and care is delivered with innate Indian compassion.
I started Apollo because there was no advanced cardiac surgery in India at that point in time. In November 1971, a 38-year-old patient of mine at HM Hospitalpassed away because he couldn’t raise $50,000 required to go the US for his operation.That incident was a turning point in my life and I was determined that precious lives were not lost, just because our people were not able to raise large sums of money for their medical treatment. When it opened, Apollo Hospitals in Madras in 1983 was the country’s first corporate hospital and it ushered in world class medical care for Indians and people of the region. Since then, over 150 million individuals who came to Apollo from across India and over 140 countries honoured us with their trust. Today, I’m pleased that even Americans come to India for medical treatment. So far, Apollo alone has done 180,000 heart surgeries. It is a great achievement.Our costs are a fraction compared to the US and clinical outcomes are the same as their best hospitals.
Insurance addresses the issue of affordability and I admire the present government for introducing the world’s largest government funded health insurance programme - Ayushman Bharat, which covers over 500 million Indians and protects them from indebtedness that medical exigencies caused in the past, in the absence of a health cover.
Today, Apollo has 72 hospitals, 11,000 hospital beds across the country. We have over 8,000 specialists and our family of 80,000 health professionals is committed to our singular goal and mission of taking world class care closer to every individual. In light of the growing prevalence of non-communicable diseases – diabetes, heart disease, cancer and stroke, we have stepped up our efforts in preventive healthcare and recently introduced Apollo Pro Health powered by AI for assessment of risk factors.
Likewise, to provide the globally best available medical treatment, Apollo has continuously been at the forefront of bringing in contemporary medical equipment and technologies. Just a year ago, the Apollo Proton Cancer Centre (APCC) in Chennai introduced Proton Therapy, the ultimate treatment for cancer. It is the first facility in South Asia and over 170 patients have been treated including 30 per cent of them being other nations. I must thank the government for having enabled me and encouraging Apollo to keep raising the bar in medicine, in India.
Apollo launched the Total Health Programme in Aragonda, Andhra Pradesh, in 2013. Could you tell us something about it?
My dream for Aragonda is coming true. I thought I must do something for my village. Over 20 years ago, I built a 60-bed hospital and it has been caring for the local people. Then about five years ago I met the Andhra CM and said that I want to look after the 195 villages, which is a Mandal, where my mother and father were born.
We started by doing check-ups for the people to ensure that especially chronic diseases like hypertension and diabetes are being nipped in the bud. During the last two years nearly 5024 rural women have been screened for oral, breast and cervical cancers. 13 cervical cancers and 4 breast cancers in rural women in stage I and 2 were detected. We treated them free of charge and now they are leading a happy life with their families.
Similarly, nutritional aspects of the community are looked after by this programme. So, when a lady becomes pregnant, immediately, she becomes part of Apollo Total Health. We start looking after her health and her nutrition. After childbirth, the baby’s health and diet too is looked after for two years, taking care that the child is healthy and robust. I am proud to say that the Mandal did not have a single neonatal or maternal mortality case during the recent years.
We started a school there with Isha Foundation in 2012. I had started my education in Class 6 in Chittoor. I thought if my parents gave me the advantage of education; why not give it to my people. This year 17 students took their Class 10 exam for the first time. Of them, 14 got 10/10 CGPA (Cumulative Grade Point Average), three got 9.3, 9.8. I gave all of them cash presents for further studies. I told them one of you will get a medical seat free from me, and one of you I will encourage to do engineering at IIT and all your costs will be borne by me. It is gratifying to see the Mandal progress, but there is a need to do more.
You will be surprised to know that in our village, our orthopedic team has done 210 total knee replacement surgeries. All our Apollo consultants travel and conduct camps in the Mandal. Now we have a big medical knowledge campus in Chittoor, a 100-acre campus.I thought I must give back something to Chittoor. We have a medical college, a nursing college, pharmacy, including health sector training. This year we have trained almost 90,000 people and got them jobs in health sector.
Another important aspect is that we discourage smoking, which has come down markedly, yoga and meditation classes are held. We are thinking of building a swimming pool, and have several playgrounds for children.
It is heartening that Harvard came to visit my village twice and soon in October 2020, they are going to have Total Health as a case study for discussion with the students. I hope this will enable the development of a gold standard for villages, anywhere in the world. And I want to invite other universities in the world there (Chittoor) for innovation.
Finally, my hope is to leave back much more than what I had got from my parents.