What’s the toughest call you have had to take since the pandemic started?
In early March, much before the lockdown, we implemented several measures – dividing our clinical and operations teams, with one team on site for a week, while the other stays at home. Working from home is not possible in many clinical functions, but our tele/video-consultation services for patients was rapidly accepted by the patients and doctors alike. Where possible, the treatment protocols were modified to make this safer for patients – whether it is longer hospital stays, additional safeguards for advanced and complex surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Our Comprehensive Oncology team (psycho-oncology, pain and palliative care, nutrition, physiotherapy) have worked overtime to counsel patients and families regarding not to stop their cancer treatment and to improve compliance so that we can have better clinical outcomes.
Uncertainty has been the most difficult to deal with. Uncertainty causes anxiety and the fear of the unknown, and this has been fuelled mainly by widespread medical misinformation on social media, added to the unhealthy panic. The challenge has only begun, but the pandemic has also helped us rediscover our strengths and introduced us to new opportunities.
How will this crisis change the supply chain in the country?
India’s healthcare spend for FY20 was 3.6% of GDP. Public healthcare spending at 1.29% of GDP is amongst the lowest in the world. I expect the public and private healthcare providers to collaborate and find ways to balance the growing demand against scarce resources. Right from pharmaceutical drugs and connected medical devices to diagnostic tests and digital health solutions, there are demands that will need to be met for India to survive this pandemic. Our ability to create viable supply chain solutions, and cold chains for vaccines and drugs will become critical even when these become available. Critical time and lives may be lost due to the delays in transportation of vaccines and treatments that will become available. We need to use the time right now to plan for upgrading our bio-pharmaceutical supply chain infrastructure across the country. With global supply lines disrupted, manufacturing has also been impacted and this would take a few months to recover fully.
Have you started looking out at alternate sourcing hubs outside of China as part of the long-term business plan?
Right now, our sole focus is on catering to the healthcare needs of our patients, caught unawares in the midst of a challenging global situation. Given the evolving nature of the crisis, we plan to take a more strategic approach and look at developing business partnerships on a long-term basis.
Will this crisis accelerate the drug development process or lead more Indian pharma firms to go beyond generic drug manufacturing?
This is an opportunity for the scientific research and clinical community in India to come together to find solutions for dealing with this pandemic. We are already seeing this happen in scientific institutions like the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) and the Indian Institure of Sciences (IISc Bangalore). There has been re-prioritisation of funds, infrastructure and personnel to find solutions for the Covid-19 pandemic in terms of diagnostics, AI-based radiography solutions, and for treatments and vaccines. India has strengths for all of these areas and in the post-pandemic world we could see India emerge as the leader across categories.
Is there any event in the past that you feel can help companies like yours find the guidance/inspiration to get through these tough times?
Since the time we launched our flagship centre, a 150-bed cancer hospital, in November 2016 in Bengaluru, our endeavour has been to adopt a holistic approach based on growing research that proved that most cancers are curable. Cytecare’s patient-centric integrated approach along with strong clinical governance, is necessary for any cancer patient in the world.
Over the last three and half years, we have witnessed numerous inspiring instances of the indomitable human spirit. There have seen patients who have come to us with no hope and left with a new life; patients who have smiled through extraordinary pain; patients who have taught us to beat the odds – no matter what the challenge. The global pandemic reminds of the fragility of human race in the universe. Having the right Values in the organisation, where we Respect every individual – whether it’s a patient, doctor, nurse or a housekeeping person, creates an environment of humility, which in turn gives us the strength to survive any catastrophe and emerge successful.