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Healthcare as CSR lends a ‘soft’ image to corporates: Dr Rajeev Boudhankar, CEO, Bhatia Hospital, Mumbai

Dr Rajeev Boudhankar
CSR by large private hospitals is probably not as documented compared to their manufacturing and tech counterparts. CSR initiatives by these hospitals can be broadly classified into four buckets: rural healthcare, awareness campaigns, disaster-relief campaigns, and education. Even then, many don’t have clearly articulated CSR policies.
The rise of chronic diseases, which is the biggest killer in India, begs for an efficient preventive healthcare system. Of course, for all of this to happen, an effective public healthcare system is required – one that actually works and places enough emphasis on preventing illnesses rather than treating them. There’s no recuse for private entities who can do so much more but are caught up in the reactive cycle of dishing out a few free heart surgeries and running mobile clinics.
One of the few health institutions that stand apart in this regard is Bhatia Hospital. For example, their Go green initiative programs are designed to protect human health and reserve natural resources for future generations. The principle behind the Go Green initiative is to design a world where natural resources will be equitably available, and all children will be healthier. The hospital has been carrying out its philanthropic activities by forming a Charitable Trust back in 1932.
We reached out to Dr. Rajeev Boudhankar, CEO, Bhatia Hospital, Mumbai for a chat. Dr Boudhankar is a seasoned professional, with over 30 years of experience. He has worked with government as well as international health bodies to set up public health programmes. He was elected to the Maharashtra State Council of CII in 2011-2012. Dr Boudhankar’s passion for healthcare was put to test during the infamous Mumbai floods of July 26, 2005 when he was the CEO of a Bandra Hospital that was located in a low-lying area. His quick decision-making helped save several lives and his managerial abilities ensured that the hospital was back to usual operations in two months.
Excerpts from an exclusive interview:

How important a component is healthcare in corporate social responsibility?

Healthcare and medical relief have been traditionally looked upon as a “charitable” activity and profession, especially in India. It was only in the mid-eighties of the last century (1985) that “corporate” healthcare became an entity in India. With it, corporate healthcare organizations started practicing “social medicine” too. With recent changes in the Companies Act, 2013, CSR became “statutory” from “voluntary” for all corporates.
The obvious societal mindset in India of looking at healthcare as a “charity”, helped corporates take up healthcare as a CSR activity with ease. It also gives a “soft” image to corporates if they take up healthcare as a CSR activity. Consequently, healthcare has become an important component of many CSR activities for corporate houses in India.

What are your views on CSR and the government mandate?

It is a welcome step as investments in the healthcare sector will increase. Sadly, even after so many years of independence, government spending on healthcare is a meagre 1% of its GDP. More investment in this sector is always welcome. In the long run, it will help strengthen the infrastructure in the healthcare sector.

In what ways could healthcare in our country benefit through CSR funding?

If the healthcare CSR projects can go in tier-3 towns and villages, it will vastly improve the healthcare infrastructure in our country. Moreover, the “have-nots” of society will get quality healthcare nearer their homes so that they don’t have to travel for their basic healthcare needs to far-off cities. If corporates take up projects in primary healthcare, it will reduce the burden on secondary and tertiary centres to a big extent. This will effectively optimize utilization of scarce resources of the healthcare sector.
It will also help reduce the disease burden in our country, as people have more faith in the private sector than the public sector for their healthcare needs.

What are the main CSR initiatives carried out by your team?

Bhatia Hospital was born with the vision of public service and charity in healthcare in 1932. Even then, the Founder Trustees had the vision of “giving back to society” to the best of their ability. This vision of our founders continues to be the cornerstone of all our activities even today.
Bhatia Hospital reserves 2% of its revenue for patients from the indigent class and weaker sections of society. We have free public health education sessions every week in our hospital, for the local population. Subjects like awareness on prevalent communicable diseases, diet, fitness, yoga, cancer, diabetes, heart diseases, etc are part of these preventive health sessions conducted by eminent consultant doctors. There is no fee whatsoever for these sessions.
We have two free “Janata Clinics” for the common man in Tardeo and Mahalaxmi, in Mumbai, where primary treatment and vaccination is given free of cost to all sections of society, irrespective of their social status. We hold free medical camps regularly in slums in Mumbai, schools, chawls, etc. We also conduct free medical camps in the hospital itself like orthopaedic camps and diabetic camps for senior citizens, dental check-up camps for BMC school children, etc
Recently, we offered free support as medical partners for the cricket matches of the visually handicapped and women cricket matches. In spite of the world waking up slowly to women’s causes and the rights of the differently abled, there were no takers for medical partnership for these matches, so we readily agreed. Our OPD has a special discount scheme for senior citizens as they are the most vulnerable section of our society.

Tell us about the Janta OPDs and their impact.

Our Janata OPDs (Out Patient Department) have been fairly successful in looking after the healthcare needs of the local weaker sections of the population. We treat almost 500 patients a month free of cost. Incidentally, our Janata OPDs are popular for their Rabies vaccination for dog bites!

How does the hospital make use of solar energy?

We have installed solar panels on the hospital terrace. Through these, we generate solar electricity which is used for boiling hot water for bathing. This has helped us eliminate the energy guzzling geysers in our hospital. This will reduce our carbon footprint on Mother Earth in a small way.

Have you undertaken greening measures?

We are very conscious of our environmental responsibility. We segregate bio-medical waste at source and dispose it as per the norms mentioned in the Bio-medical waste management Act. We have installed a wet waste treatment plant in the campus to treat and dispose wet waste like food, raw vegetable waste, etc. This waste is converted to organic manure and used for horticulture.
We also donate this manure to needy NGOs who in turn donate to needy farmers. This helps us keep the environment free from rodents, pests, etc and at the same time encourage organic farming for non-toxic food production, free of insecticides. Kitchen wastes are segregated at every step and eliminated when passed on through sink incinerators.

Which CSR activities were in partnership with corporate houses?

We have an ongoing CSR activity with the Jalan Foundation, which donated modern equipment for emergency medical care; this centre takes care of all medical emergencies.

How involved is the staff in volunteering?

We have shared the vision of our founders with all our employees. All social programs are enthusiastically supported by our team of dedicated doctors, nurses, technicians, patient care employees (ward boys and ayas). Even when we have social programs on public holidays, our staff members volunteer of their own accord. This says a lot about our engagement with our employees and their social awareness.