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In India, a Model for Low-Cost Heart Surgery

Devi Shetty's company, Narayana Hrudayalaya, has created a new program to build low-cost hospitals that provide specialty care to the poor.

In India, heart disease has overtaken communicable diseases as the primary killer, but the poor still have limited access to the specialist health care that can save their lives. Until now, that is.

Devi Shetty's company, Narayana Hrudayalaya, has created a new program to build low-cost hospitals that can provide health care to the poor. Rosalind Miller reports in the Guardian's Global Development column:

While surveying the blueprint drawings of a new 300-bed speciality heart hospital in Mysore, Dr Devi Shetty announces that his facility will be completed within four to five months with a total investment of about $4m. Traditionally in India, such a hospital would cost nearer $30m and take around three years to build. Shetty's goal is for his low-cost model to make heart surgery accessible to the millions in need.


The low cost of the hospital and the ability to construct it rapidly, provides a viable plan to provide specialty health care that can reach the population in very short order. However, once the hospital is built it must sustain itself and Shetty has a plan to make that possible.

In addition to offering low-cost surgery, he treats the most needy patients free of charge by subsidising their care through charging those who can pay a higher rate. He has also set up the Yeshasvini scheme, in which, for five rupees (about $1) per month, farmers in Karnataka state can insure themselves against healthcare expenses. The model is proving to be a vote-winner for politicians, and is being replicated across the country.


His model will give millions of people who could not ordinarily afford health care access to specialty hospitals where they can be treated. Shetty predicts that he will be able to offer low-cost open heart surgery for as little as $800. Considering the power this program has already it could move across the developing world providing low-cost health care to millions in need. In fact, Shetty is already planning on expanding the program in Africa.

Photo (cc) by Flickr takomabibelot

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