Aiming For The Best – Asian Cancer Institute
Asian Cancer Institute is a one-of-its-kind comprehensive cancer centre in Mumbai which is working tirelessly to bring affordable cancer care to Indian patientsBy Aatika H Jain
The revived Cumballa Hill Hospital and Heart Institute near Kemps Corner in South Mumbai—which was shut down in 2017 due to severe financial loss—is set to reopen its doors to the general public this month. Last December, the Asian Cancer Institute (ACI) offered to manage the insolvent hospital. A team from ACI has invested more than INR 60 crore to make the non-operational hospital functioning again after a much-needed upgrade and clearance of all dues. The hospital will now be called ACI Cumballa Hill Hospital and will provide cancer care along with other tertiary care. Formerly called the Asian Institute of Oncology, the Asian Cancer Institute, spread over an area of 35,000 sq. ft was conceptualized by a group of five former surgeons of Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai. ACI was the implementation of their vision to offer affordable and seamless diagnosis and treatment to all. “A group of cancer specialists conceived and implemented the idea of this institution; it is being managed by a group of cancer specialists.
There are no non-medical people involved in this particular venture as of now,” says Dr. R Deshpande, Director, ACI. “All these specialists trained and worked at the Tata Memorial Hospital in the 80s and the 90s, established standards, created leadership, and eventually left the institution, and continued to be a group.” Dr. Deshpande was awarded the Padma Shri in 2014 for his contributions in the field of medicine.
ACI started as a daycare center in 2001 at the Wellspring Clinic, Piramal Hospital, Parel, Mumbai. In October 2002, it was shifted to S L Raheja Hospital, Mahim, after the setting up of in-patient and surgical facility, and then to Somaiya Ayurvihar, Sion, in 2013, with the development of facilities to its present stage and size, in partnership with the Somaiya Medical College. ACI is a comprehensive cancer care center that offers services such as medical oncology, surgical oncology, robotic surgery, palliative care, rehabilitation, diagnostics, and 8-bed well-equipped ICU.
ACI aims to excel in cancer care, research, and education. The center has successfully performed 350 robotic surgeries so far. The combined team of Dr. Jagdeesh N Kulkarni and Dr. V Srinivas has performed the highest number of radical prostatectomies, more than 400 cases, in the country in the short period of three years. As ACI is managed by a team of the country’s top oncologists, it has a better know-how of the trials and tribulations of the patients and their treatment and rehabilitation. “We have created this institution in an asset-light modality, so our costs are also much lower. Our motto is basically to provide excellence in cancer care at affordable costs, and that is reflected in the final pricing of the overall care that a patient receives here, as you receive absolutely top-of-the-line care at nearly 30 percent discount as compared to any other hospital, anywhere in the country,” states Dr. Deshpande. “We also have another arm which we call the Smart Cancer Centre—the first one is already established at Lucknow—where patients can approach and get the same kind of knowledge-spread through the audiovisual media about awareness and treatment of cancer. So we try to reach as many numbers of patients in our country. The governments alone cannot do everything. We need private players to get into the act.”
“WE HAVE CREATED THIS INSTITUTION IN AN ASSET-LIGHT MODALITY; SO OUR COSTS ARE ALSO MUCH LOWER. OUR MOTTO IS TO PROVIDE EXCELLENCE IN CANCER CARE AT AFFORDABLE COSTS, AND THAT IS REFLECTED IN THE FINAL PRICING OF THE OVERALL CARE THAT A PATIENT RECEIVES HERE, AS YOU RECEIVE TOP-OFTHE- LINE CARE AT NEARLY 30 PER CENT DISCOUNT COMPARED TO ANY OTHER HOSPITAL, ANYWHERE IN THE COUNTRY.”Dr. R Deshpande, Director, Datar Asian Cancer Institute
“I underwent surgery to remove my prostate in 2015 and thankfully, the operation was smooth. I appreciated the level of concern throughout my trip. It helps when you are undergoing treatment, to be informed of the process and options as well as to receive good service from the staff reporting to you,” says an overseas patient of ACI. ACI was established as a hub-and-spoke model for complete cancer care. The hub is the ACI center at Sion; collaborative centers have been set up around Mumbai and across the country. All of these centers boast affordable cancer care. One such center has been established in Bhubaneswar in partnership with AMRI Hospitals called AMRI-ACI to offer world-class cancer care to the patients of Odisha and East India.
The ACI Daycare in Borivali, Mumbai, is the only daycare center in Mumbai, which provides a dedicated unit for daycare services in chemotherapy. The services include daycare chemotherapies, consultations of new patients and follow-up of the existing ones with experts, telemedicine, diagnostics, and a 24-hour pharmacy. The center administers an average of around 10 chemotherapies every day. Situated at a distance of an hour from the main center, it helps lessen the patient load of the main hospital, thus benefiting more patients. “The patients who would never have gone for management of cancer are now getting their treatment close to their homes, ensuring better logistics. This is the treatment model of choice for the socially and economically challenged patients, and this is our social commitment,” asserts Dr. Deshpande.
ACI has never advertised and its growth has been organic, through word-of-mouth. One of the difficulties of establishing the center was financing the spoke centers using their own resources, and a lack of trained professionals. “Having spent so many years in training, the expectation of a trained person as soon as they come out of their MCH or DNB is that they want to taste the fruits very fast, so this is a bit of problem because you need to go through a lot of grunge work, and a lot of struggle, which many people are not ready for. That leads to a mismatch between their expertise and their expectations. This is one problem that needs a lot of mentoring,” says Dr. Deshpande. But he is hopeful that with proper planning and due diligence, the ACI model can be replicated throughout the country. “I am sure if we do a good amount of leg-work, we can actually have the same asset-light model in every state which has adequate space for treatment,” he adds