Mr. Himanshu Baid, Managing Director, PolyMedicure
Speaks about the role of Med Tech in scaling up capacity, improving supply chains & the importance of backing startups in a robust manner, to improve overall healthcare infrastructure
The video is a detailed account of a conversation with him. Below is an excerpt…
Frontline health workers are vulnerable to isolation and mental distress. What message you would like to give them?
I would like to thank doctors, nurses, lab technicians, pharmacists, and all other healthcare workers for their unprecedented service to humanity. Firstly, I would suggest yoga and meditation to prevent mental health issues. They are highly effective in releasing tension. Any free time can be utilized for easy yoga exercises or meditation. Secondly, the entire medical ecosystem should prioritize the mental wellbeing of our fraternity. Every healthcare establishment needs to have a Mental Wellness Centre, to help people tide over trauma and stress that has accumulated over the past months.
What are some lessons from the first two waves that can help us brace for a third wave?
The key learning is the centrality of the supply chain. If we could have ensured oxygen supply to various hospitals, we could have saved many lives. The capacity to produce O2 was present, but timely production and delivery became an issue. We have learnt the urgent need of increasing ICU bed capacity in hospitals. An average hospital with 20% ICU beds needs to ramp the percentage up to 45-50% beds for ICUs. Moreover, most hospitals have 25-30% beds with O2 supply, or lower. In future, we need to ensure building infrastructure that allows for 80% beds with O2.
Another issue is that in many cities, people had to wait days to get RT-PCR test results. By the time reports were received, some patients’ conditions became critical. Ramping up the speed and efficiency of testing is key. Stricter enforcement of social distancing norms remains vital for the near future. Any public event that draws crowds should be postponed.
What are some steps to ensure preparedness for the coming months?
Some suggestions that can be implemented are:
- Creating a stockpile of devices and pharmaceutical products after state-wise need analysis
- Government funding or partial costs coverage, to enable each major hospital to have an oxygen plant.
- Creating a supply of O2 concentrators to smaller hospitals
- Upskilling technicians, ASHA workers and HCWs in rural areas and tier 2, tier 3 cities
Where does the capacity of local manufacturing of medical devices stand?
India is still exporting 80% of important medical devices. During the last months, the government started implementing the PPP model with efficiency. This had a good impact on supply of devices like ventilators and O2 concentrators. Between the first and the second wave, we attained self-sufficiency in manufacturing PPE kits, testing kits and syringes. The capacity to produce most medical devices within the nation is present. However, it is still tough to ensure production, if the demand remains unstable.
What steps has your organization taken to fortify the national supply chain?
The demand for respiratory devices shot up exponentially during April-May 2021. This posed a challenge for Polymed, which produces diagnostics, renal and respiratory devices. Our engineering team worked dedicatedly to multiply the tools, molds and machines to manufacture the products. Production capacity was expanded in less than 3 weeks. Polymed became one of the largest producers of VTM kits that are used to carry the test samples. Today, we can produce almost 10% of the national capacity of VTM kits. Oxygen connectors too, were conceptualized and manufactured by us, and we even sent them to some hospitals free of charge.
Can Med-Tech compensate for the current shortage of skilled human resources?
In the status quo, we have witnessed the rise of technologies like robotic surgeries and remote ultrasound. Artificial intelligence has allowed companies to create medical databases with valuable information that doctors from all over the world can consult, while treating patients. This data can also help predict disease patterns. Accurate information is key to preparedness. Technology can be a massive aid in augmenting the capacity of the healthcare system. Existing skilled professionals and staff can be trained in using more sophisticated technical instruments.
India requires to surge capacity to tide over the pandemic. What is the role of the Med-Tech industry to this capacity creation?
The Med-Tech industry can play a central role towards capacity creation, but this requires the consolidation of demand at the national level. Today, this demand and the whole healthcare structure is fragmented and varies across regions and states. The Med-Tech industry itself is not well regulated in India. Firstly, we need to develop a list of critical medical equipment. The second step is to estimate the national demand for each of these equipment. Only then can the Med-Tech industry augment their manufacturing capacity to meet the demand and contribute meaningfully.
Do you think Med-Tech startups can play an important role in building better health infrastructure?
The biggest challenge Med-Tech startups face is surviving in the current market. Both, government and private institutions, prioritize buying from existing established companies.Startups also have difficulty in estimating the right time to scale up, as market demand fluctuates. Very few startups are able to survive beyond the first few years. There is capital to back good startups in India; we simply need to make a unified platform where startups can interact with industries, government agencies and other influential stakeholders. If we work to reduce the significant hurdles that prevent the growth of startups, they can certainly play a substantial role in the health ecosystem.