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THE GREAT LIFE

Luxe healing

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MEDICAL INDULGENCE : Whether it's a candle-light dinner for new parents or spa treatment, healthcare is heading the luxury way

If India is a thriving hub for medical tourism then Fortis Memorial Research Institute (FMRI), recently opened in Gurgaon, is the Taj Mahal of the circuit. Just walking into this expansive building spread over 11 acres cheers you up. Attendants called 'genies' greet you with a warm "May I help you" and a smile at the entrance and guide you to your doctor or department. There are murmuring fountains, a vast lobby area awash with heartwarming natural light so difficult to find in Delhi, and a huge POP sculpture, 'Lovable Curious Child', made by well-known artist Jitish Kallat right at the centre of the lobby. 

As you wait to visit a loved one in the hospital or await your lab reports, you can momentarily forget your worries as you sink into plush red sofas. If you think this is indulgence then you still haven't seen the retail therapy section that has stores like W H Smith, Chico, Reebok and eating joints like Haldiram's, Subway, Baskin Robins and Costa Coffee. If you get bored of shopping, you can catch a movie screening at Fortiplex, a 36-seater cinema hall, inside the hospital meant for the attendants of in-patients. 

Corporate hospitals are known for the frills they offer - highly personalised care, good food, pleasing interiors and holistic healing services. But now some hospitals are taking a step forward by creating truly luxurious healing spaces.

At Madras Institute of Orthopaedics and Traumatology (MIOT) hospital, recuperating patients are put up at Miot Retreat, which offers deluxe suites, a multi-cuisine restaurant Vindaloo, and even a beauty parlour and hair salon. "At the recently opened Miot International Centre we have added two state-of-the-art restaurants. Shopping areas and spa treatments have also been provided for the attendants who cannot venture out of the hospital much. There's a rooftop terrace garden where patients and their attendants can relax, have a cup of coffee and heal, " says Mallika Mohandas, chairperson, Miot hospitals.

Earlier this year in Mumbai, the Hinduja group started Hinduja Healthcare, a boutique hospital that targets high net worth individuals who value luxury healthcare. The 110-bed hospital offers in-room check-in, valet parking, personal butler service and a wide array of gourmet vegetarian food spanning Indian, European, Mexican and Oriental cuisines. A night's stay costs upwards of Rs 10, 500.

The fanciest of the lot surely is the birthing suite which allows the patient's close family to be around her at the time of delivery. Recently, actor Shilpa Shetty gave birth to her son at this hospital. According to newspaper reports, she was quite taken in by the trappings that include convertible labour beds. The management hosts special candle-light dinners for parents of the newborns.

Patients at Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital and Medical Research Institute in Mumbai can get their hair styled and coloured, their hands manicured, and heads massaged at Yasmin's Wellness Centre run by the city's famous hair stylists Nalini & Yasmin.
Fuelled by an increasing number of private players in India's growing healthcare sector - pegged at $50 billion in 2011 and expected to double by 2015 - and private individuals who seek highly personalised medical care, the demand for boutique hospitals is on the rise.
Boutique healthcare is mostly focused on specialties like obstetrics & gynaecology, orthopaedics and cosmetic surgery. Although the concept of such customised luxury healthcare originated in the US it was in Asian countries like Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia that it became an instant hit because the elite here were willing to pay extra for personalised services. Now, India has hitched on to the bandwagon and already has seven to eight such hospitals. "People are demanding a feel-good factor in hospitals, " says Dr Ashok V Chordia, zonal director FMRI. According to him this demand will only get stronger in coming years. He adds, "Patients and attendants should get the best quality of life inside hospitals. "

For a price you can get almost all creature comforts in hospitals but do you really have hair highlights on your mind when you have just had your hip replaced or given birth? For high profile patients like Aishwarya Rai and Shilpa Shetty who have to face hungry cameras when they step out of a hospital, perhaps, yes. But for non-celebrity patients, these are just temptations.

Mansi Verma, a Delhi-based lawyer, who recently delivered her son at Fortis La Femme - a fancy birthing centre in the heart of south Delhi - had no time to wallow in the luxuries. "I was so occupied with nursing the baby that getting a foot massage didn't cross my mind, " says Verma whose newborn was clicked by a professional photographer and a framed copy gifted to her along with chocolates from an in-house store. A pink bow and a note on her room's door announced the arrival of the baby. Her total bill for her day and half stay came to Rs 1. 25 lakh approximately.

Clearly, just living in style is not enough. Falling sick in style is the new luxury.

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