This unique observational documentary series shines a light on Indian society as it is rarely seen. In six one-hour programmes it illuminates the complexities and dilemmas of modern India through the extraordinarily varied lives of patients and medical staff working at the Narayana Hrudayalaya Hospital Complex in Bangalore.

A series by Paul Roy

On World Heart Day, Dr Devi Shetty, the founder of Narayana Hrudayalaya hospital, has escaped his office with some of his employees to push his healthy lifestyle message. Shetty's long-term vision is to change not just India's but the entire world's approach to managing health.

Shetty is regularly asked to comment on topics ranging from national politics to hospital design, medical insurance schemes and financial management. And he never misses an opportunity to push his message of low-cost, affordable healthcare - in the process, generating publicity for his hospital and its services.

Such publicity has seen an increase in full fee paying patients from overseas. These patients, who have come from more than 70 countries for treatment at Narayana Hrudayalaya, are critical for the hospital's cash flow.

But for the majority of India's population, medical treatment is not so easily accessible. Most of those who need dialysis, for example, never get their condition treated because of the high costs involved.

Twenty-year-old Navya is fortunate. Her uncle runs a small concrete block construction company that has benefitted from Bangalore's construction boom. He has been paying for her treatment for the past three months, but his generosity cannot last forever and the $60 her treatment costs each week would financially cripple her family.

When Navya finds out that she is eligible for insurance that will cover the cost of the expensive kidney transplant she needs, her family must decide who will become her donor. But with her father disabled and her mother now the family's sole earner, neither are in a position to help.

After much debate the family decides that Navya's grandmother will be her kidney donor. But they must still go through several government reviews of her case, introduced as a measure to combat the unlawful organ trade.

For the 1.2 billion people living in India, religion is a part of everyday life. While Shetty is a Hindu, he ensures that the hospital embraces all faiths. A guiding force in his life was the time he spent as physician to Catholic nun Mother Teresa.

Jainism is an ancient religion. With just over four million devotees, its followers include ascetic monks who travel by foot across the country. Moksh Yash Vijay-Ji and Sayam Yash Vijay-Ji have trained to be monks since they were very young, and together they have walked the length and breadth of India.

But since a tragic road accident, they can no longer walk - a situation that has severely tested their faith.

At the hospital, they stay in an executive room, fully paid for by the Jain community, where they are cared for by two male nurses because they are not allowed contact with women. It is a far cry from the simplicity of life on the road.

India needs a huge number of extra doctors, yet the system requires doctors to buy their place in a hospital - a reality that outrages Shetty.

So he has come up with a radical plan that will help a select group of six students - including one of Shetty's sons - become cardiac surgeons over the next six years, bypassing the traditional requirement of five years of general surgery practice before specialisation.

Cardiac surgeons Dr Sri Krishna and Dr P.S. Jairaj are going to be the tutors for this group. But Krishna, a vastly experienced surgeon, is not convinced this novel approach will work. He comes from a long line of surgeons who took years to attain their skills without any shortcuts. But, for Shetty, he is willing to give it a try.

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Source: Al Jazeera