In 2020, USAID, IPE Global, and stakeholders from the Indian government, academia, and the private sector developed the innovative SAMRIDH Healthcare Blended Finance Facility to combine public and philanthropic funds with commercial capital to create and rapidly scale market-based health solutions. SAMRIDH has supported GNRC Hospitals — a chain of multi-specialty hospitals in Assam, with US $1.2 million in funding. Through this partnership, GNRC has strengthened preparedness for not only the current COVID-19 pandemic but also for future health emergencies by increasing the reach of quality healthcare services offered under Government of India’s flagship health assurance program Ayushman Bharat-PMJAY and Atal Amrit Abhiyan scheme. The GNRC Swasthya Mitra Program, in collaboration with SAMRIDH, is ensuring beneficiaries have access to at least 35-40% of hospital beds when needed; spreading awareness amongst the rural population on the importance of using face masks, maintaining social distancing, practicing hand hygiene, understanding the benefits of COVID-19 vaccination; and educating communities on COVID-19 appropriate behaviours GNRC Swasthya Mitras are also trained to identify any patients with COVID-19 symptoms and collaborate with the local Public Health Authority to facilitate testing, tracking, isolation, and treatment of patients.
SAMRIDH’s timely support to GNRC has enabled the hospital group to mount an effective response to tackle the third wave of COVID-19. To date, GNRC has dedicated 320 beds to help COVID-19 patients, including 150 ICU beds across its four units in Dispur, Six Mile and North Guwahati. This support also enabled GNRC to convert its Good Health unit in Guwahati to a fully functional COVID-19 hospital, fully equipped with ventilators and necessary oxygen support, along with other technical equipment for proper management of COVID-19 cases. Trained and experienced doctors and other skilled support staff are manning these facilities for best possible care for communities in Assam.
SAMRIDH leverages philanthropic capital, and public sector resources to offset barriers for commercial investments in small and medium health enterprises to invest in and scale healthcare solutions. With this approach, SAMRIDH drives greater resources towards market-based health solutions that can improve access to affordable and quality healthcare services for India’s most vulnerable. SAMRIDH works in technical collaboration with premier institutions such as the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, Atal Innovation Mission, NITI Aayog, Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government of India, the National Health Authority, Axis Bank, IndusInd Bank, Rockefeller Foundation and leading corporates, international donors, financial institutions and industry associations.
Speaking about this collaboration, Mr. Himanshu Sikka, Project Director, SAMRIDH Healthcare Blended Finance Facility said, “We are pleased to support GNRC in expanding its community engagement program to improve health and well-being of vulnerable populations. Through this collaboration, we aim to catalyse partnerships for greater investments towards GNRC’s initiatives focused on improving awareness and access of health services. We envision our joint efforts to play a significant role in bolstering Government of India’s large scale healthcare programs including Ayushman Bharat-PMJAY and Atal Amrit Abhiyan scheme.”
GNRC Swasthya Mitra is a pool of community health workers who constantly work for preventive, promotive and curative care for India’s rural and urban poor population. Most of these Swasthya Mitras are women selected from their communities, who relentlessly help the low-income population in Assam obtain access to quality and affordable healthcare.
Expressing his acknowledgement on receiving the support from SAMRIDH, Dr. Nomal Chandra Borah, Founder, GNRC Affordable Health Mission and GNRC group of hospitals and a prominent Indian neurologist said, “The GNRC Family is enthralled and deeply grateful and whole heartedly acknowledges the support of USAID and this SAMRIDH initiative to assist us in our collaborative efforts. This partnership endorses our relentless efforts to make quality healthcare affordable and accessible to everyone in society, irrespective of their social and economic status, especially the most vulnerable populations. We plan to fast-track our existing Swasthya Mitra operations to 10 districts of lower and middle Assam covering 4000 villages and 6 million people with the help of SAMRIDH’s support.”
This support will demonstrate that poor populations can be served and included in organized healthcare channels through commercial models. The initial support from SAMRIDH is expected to be followed by private sector commercial financing. Setuka Partners, a boutique advisory firm that supports emerging market enterprises to raise capital from impact investors, is advising GNRC to put together this blended finance package.