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Al Jazeera produces Indian Hospital series
The network has announced a new observational documentary series called Indian Hospital.
Last Modified: 03 Apr 2012 12:59

A unique 6x1 hour series, Indian Hospital, was filmed over four months by two crews inside a massive 3,000-bed hospital on the outskirts of Bangalore, India's third largest city.

By following the stories of patients, doctors and nurses the series explores the rich variety of life in modern India through the prism of hospital life.

The Narayana Hrudayalaya ("Temple of the Heart") health city, where the series was filmed, offers a completely new way of delivering high quality health care to rich and poor alike. This hospital provides the most complex operations on an industrial scale. More pediatric open heart surgeries are undertaken here each year than anywhere else in the world. Its huge scale allows the hospital to reduce costs, not only for those who can afford to pay, but also so that the very poor can get the best care the hospital can offer at virtually no cost through assistance from the hospital's charity unit.  Cardiac surgery costing $40-50,000 in the United States is offered at a full price before any discount of $1,800.

The hospital’s founder, cardiac surgeon Devi Shetty, talks in the first episode about the dream of the hospital and how it developed:

"I always wanted to build a large health city with 5,000 beds. And we all believe that the only way the cost of high tech health care will come down is by economy of scale. We started here with 250 beds, now we have 3,000 beds. We have a very large cancer hospital with close to 2,000 beds. We have an eye hospital which can do 5,000 cataract surgeries a day. We have reached up to 35 major heart surgeries in a day. We get about 3,000 outpatients per day and we can go up to 12,000 outpatients a day."

The hospital makes nine per cent profit while operating a policy of never sending away patients who cannot afford treatment. The hospital therefore is a possible role model of how to provide affordable healthcare.

Shetty said about the Narayana Hrudayalaya business model:

"Charity is not scalable. Irrespective of how wealthy you are, you want to give away things free of cost, [but] there is a finite amount you can give away. After that you will become broke … So we decided to adopt all the business concept of Henry Ford or a Walmart or anyone. One thing common with all of them is their size, economies of scale."

Episode 1 of the series focuses on two patients who have received treatment at the hospital. Baby Hatasham Ali carried an illness for several months which was too complex or expensive to be treated at other hospitals and was certain to lead to him dying as an infant. Narayana Hrudayalaya staff are shown helping his parents find the funds for their son’s liver transplant. Meanwhile, 13-year-old schoolgirl Rajeshwari has not been able to open her jaw since the age of two, leaving her malnourished, depressed and with an uncertain future. The episode follows her 300km journey from her small village to the bustling city of Bangalore in the hope she can be helped.

Indian Hospital is executive produced by Oscar, Emmy and BAFTA winning filmmaker Jon Blair. He said about the project:

"The wide variety of peoples’ stories from so many different walks of life offers a fascinating window into Indian life. Not only that, but the hospital manages to attract patients from all over the world to use its facilities. We enjoyed making this series; we’re sure the global audience will be touched by its stories and will have much food for thought about the best way to provide healthcare."

Indian Hospital will air on Al Jazeera English from May 3 at the times below. It will also be available to watch free at www.aljazeera.com. (Long form programming is an integral part of Al Jazeera English’s content, forming around 40 per cent of the channel’s output.)

Reviews

The first episode is available for review. Please contact the Al Jazeera press office to arrange this.

Credits

Series Producer/Director: Paul Roy
Line Producer: Batul Mukhtiar
Editors: Gautam Singh and Nic Dove
Photography: Paul Roy and Ankur Ahuja
Assistant Producers: Urmila Jagannathan and Namrata Gupta
Executive Producer: Jon Blair

Transmission times for the first episode, which will air weekly thereafter at the same times for six weeks:

Thursday, May 3 -- 2000GMT
Friday, May 4 -- 1200GMT
Saturday, May 5 -- 0100GMT
Sunday, May 6 -- 0600GMT
Monday, May 7 -- 2000GMT
Tuesday, May 8 -- 1200GMT
Wednesday, May 9 -- 0100GMT
Thursday, May 10 -- 0600GMT

Photographs

Pictures can be downloaded on Flickr. Once you have clicked through on a selected image, select "Actions" above the photo.

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