`Aya Ram, Gaya Ram' in Indian Healthcare


doctor poaching by hospitals in india

The mushrooming of glitzy five star hospitals in the metro towns is seeing the political preserve of `Aya Ram, Gaya Ram' entering the healthcare with the poaching of star doctors continuing unabated. An inside story on the movement of star doctors in the last few years by Kuldeep Chaudhary

For years all the aspiring super specialists of the NCR region dreamt of joining either Apollo Hospital or Gangaram Hospital or Batra Hospital. Suddenly the sprouting of Glitzy Super Specialty hospitals in the last 10 years has thrown many more options for the star doctors. Neurosurgeons, Neurologists, Spine Surgeons, Joint Replacement Surgeons, Cardiologists & Cardiac Surgeons are some of the specialties which are in great demand. The teams of cancer specialists moving from one hospital to the other can wipe out the entire departmental revenue.

Dr Ashok Seth moving from Escorts Heart Institute to Max Hospital, Saket was probably the beginning of the `Tectonic Doctor Shift' creating ripples in the industry. In 2008 when renowned Brain & Spine Surgeon Dr Arun Saroha and Neurologist Dr Praveen Gupta moved from Paras Hospital at Gurgaon to Artemis Hospital just 3 kms apart the loss to Paras Hospital was huge which they have not been able to bridge till date.

Artemis suffered the same fate when the cancer team which they had brought from Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute moved again to Medanta Medicity after spending close to 2 years at Artemis. Artemis again looked at Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Hospital to bring Dr Ranga Rao who again moved to BLK Hospital, New Delhi leaving the cancer department of Artemis Hospital in a lurch. Dr Arun Saroha had built a formidable reputation specially amongst International patients while being at Artemis Hospital but his moving to Max Hospital recently has left a deep void in the field of brain and spine surgery at Artemis which will be very difficult to fill.dr arun saroha

The moving of the Neurosurgery team from Max Hospital, Saket first to Medanta and then in the second installment to Fortis Gurgaon left a vacuum at Max Saket which took more than 3 years to fill by poaching doctors from other hospitals. Earlier the doctors used to spend a lifetime at one hospital and the hospitals used to be identified with the doctors. Now the loyalty factor has no meaning and the doctors keep moving to greener pastures. 

What is the reason behind the frequent move of the star doctors from one top chain to another. It cannot be the money factor as no hospital can survive if they are paying their doctors more than what they earn in terms of their service fee from the patient revenue that they generate. We have seen a similar shift of the healthcare marketing people but rarely do the doctors move in sync with the marketing teams. 

The doctors when asked this question said on conditions of anonymity that the hospital administration is to be blamed for the movement of the doctors from one hospital to another. The moment a doctor starts becoming popular or her pay cheque becomes bigger the hospital administration starts to destabalize the doctor by bringing other specialists of the same speciality on board and tinkering with the contract terms. A very reputed neurologist said that `Our pay cheque becomes the biggest cause of envy for the top hospital administration and they start their dirty tricks to make our life less comfortable. They do not realize the amount of hard work that a doctor has to put to reach those heights' said the neurologist.

When a top doctor moves away from a hospital a lot of revenue also moves and it takes a long time for the hospital to recover its losses. So what is the way forward - Should the hospitals now start looking at offering sweat equity to the top doctors to get their continued association. The hospital owners are a long way away from this solution and would like to offer higher packages instead of ownership to the doctors. Till the doctors get a stake in the future of the hospital they will continue to be lured by new entrants who can always offer bigger money to get a quick start.







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