The celebrity stop for the seriously sick, the premier healthcare unit the Lilavati Hospital, is now facing competition from new, spiffy hospitals in close proximity, as the ailing rich and the famous explore other options
The crown jewel of healthcare in the suburbs is losing its sheen. Or is it? For the longest time, Lilavati Hospital in Bandra (w) was the only hospital that offered premium quality healthcare in the western suburbs. It was the hospital of choice for most of Bollywood or B-town, as it is known. Now though there are new kids on the hospital block.
Amitabh Bachchan at the Lilavati Hospital
Take the recent example of Hrithik Roshan who was rushed to Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital (KDAH) in Andheri bypassing the older, Bandra hospital this week after he suffered from an allergic reaction to medication. Incidentally, Hrithik*s wife Sussanne delivered their second baby in 2008 at the Lilavati Hospital. Yet, the allergy problem has not been the actor*s first visit to the KDAH hospital. Only days after the official launch of the Ambani hospital last year in January, Roshan was rushed there after he suffered injury to his arm during the filming of Kites at Filmistan. And while no one can accuse the actor of being partial, sources at the time had said that Hrithik*s sister wanted her brother to go to Lilavati hospital but KDAH was chosen because of its proximity to the set where the injury had happened.
The loyalists swear that they aren*t going anywhere else, but there are more choices for the patient and more competition for the hospital. Dr Jalil Parkar, an intensivist with Lilavati Hospital and treating doctor to Shiv Sena supremo Balasaheb Thackeray says, "All hospitals need to improvise and improve upon the facilities they offer because the patient is now mobile. He*s will go to the hospital he*s comfortable at. Of course with celebrities, some will stay loyal to a family practitioner and follow him or her blindly out of habit or for other reasons. But there*s no doubting that there is more competition and where Lilavati only had to reckon with perhaps Nanavati Hospital in the past, there are more players now."
Lilavati Hospital*s Rs 800 crore, 300-bed facility has indeed some reason to feel warm around the collar. In 2002, heart surgeon to the Prime Minister Dr Ramakant Panda and a team of doctors formed the Asian Heart Institute in Bandra Kurla complex that is today the hospital of choice for ailing CMs and the family of music maestros. KDAH started in January last year and the 1500-bed Seven Hills Hospital opened in Marol this year. These are hospitals waiting for clearance to have patients land in air ambulances on helipads in the premises. They are hospitals with salons, souped up cafeterias and VIP rooms - facilities that were previously only available at a handful of places.
Doctors say that the reason a celebrity chooses one hospital over another is also dogged by commercial interests now. "Like business houses that make it mandatory for all employees from their company to seek treatment from only a single hospital, celebrities have also entered into contracts with certain agencies or production houses that make it mandatory for them to seek treatment from only one hospital. There*s little that can be done in these cases as these actors in the interest of bagging a movie or ensuring that the production house keeps them signed on for future projects, do what the management tells them to do," said a doctor on condition of anonymity.
KDAH management feels that its no-consultant, only full-time doctor model is bringing in the accolades - and the patients. "We are the only hospital in Mumbai to function with full-time doctors who will ensure availability and access to the best medical talent round-the-clock. This doctor*s model is key to building a successful medical institution and is one of the many formats we have adopted from leading western medical institutions," said a hospital spokesperson.
The Lilavati Hospital has been as much in the news for infighting within the trustees as it has for its celebrity patients. The Lilavati trustee dispute took on a new twist ten days ago with the appointment of a reporting trustee in Chetan Mehta by the office of the Charity Commissioner but if the past battle is anything to go by, the family dispute that is currently dogging the trustees of the Rs 800 crore property is far from over.
The 32-year-old hospital that was set up by patriarch Kirtilal Mehta in 1978 was left to his sons but about six years ago, in fighting began between the brothers with Kishor Mehta accusing Vijay of forging documents in 1995 to get himself appointed as a permanent trustee.
Countless court battles and even a Supreme Court appointed administrator later, the trouble hasn*t stopped brewing for the family. In 2006, Kishor*s wife Charu filed a suit against the trustees of the hospital against a resolution that was seeking to curb her authority and disallow her sons onto the premises.
The fight has even moved away from the courtroom. In January 2008, a group of around ten people entered the hospital, beat up and blackened the face of pharmacist Dushyant Mehta, who had been accused of siphoning off funds with his wife in connivance with CEO Vijay Mehta.
More recently in July, the Bandra police arrested seven people in connection to the assault of trustee Niket Mehta following an alleged altercation between him and his cousin Chetan when the latter came to meet his ailing uncle Vijay at the hospital.
Both parties have also been dogged by other controversies. Last year, the now deceased Vijay Mehta*s son Miten, a diamond dealer and resident of Cuffe Parade, jumped to his death from his ninth floor apartment. The hospital was served notice last year after it was discovered that Niket was living on the 12th floor of the hospital building with his family.
Said one ex-employee of Lilavati hospital on condition of anonymity, "The managerial staff there hardly know who to listen to as the trustees fight with each other. There is constant fear of what may happen next as there has been more than one case of open assault on the hospital premises."
The hospital however maintains that the patients would never suffer. "Despite the legal issue, Lilavati Hospital is in the same league as AIIMS, Apollo Hospital, etc," said the hospital spokesperson.
Lilavati? at 100 per cent
In response to queries about how Lilavati was dealing with a shift of patients from their facility to others, the hospital spokesperson Mohan Rajan said, "Lilavati Hospital has an occupancy of 100 per cent all through the year. We serve the poor and the rich. His grace the Dalai Lama, Bollywood, the political world continues to choose Lilavati Hospital. New hospitals are welcome as long as they alleviate human suffering.u00a0 Martin Luther III recently visited Lilavati Hospital as an emissary of peace. Despite the legal issues, Lilavati Hospital is in the same league as AIIMS, Apollo Hospital and others."
Lilavati loyalists are The Dalai Lama, the Bachchan family and the Thackerays.
Patients at the Asian Heart hospital
Assam CM Tarun Gogoi was admitted for multiple heart surgeries to the centre in August this year.
A R Rahman*s 11-year-old daughter Raheema was operated on in April
Patients at KDAH
Priyanka Chopra was admitted in April 2009 following stomach infection and exhaustion.
Asin was admitted last year in September for a sinus problem.
Kader Khan underwent a knee operation in September this year.