India will set up a medical park and a vaccine park in Chennai soon to help cut costs in the manufacture of healthcare equipment and for research into new vaccines, said Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss.
"While the medical park will enable us to manufacture medical equipment for the country, the vaccine park will research on developing new vaccines," Ramadoss told IANS.
"The medical park will be built on 300 acres of land and the vaccine park on 100 acres. The new initiative, being undertaken in collaboration with the commerce ministry, will help cut costs in a major way," he said.
"Currently 90 percent of the medical equipment used in India is imported. The park will help us tackle this situation. It will be open to both national and international companies but the equipment produced will be strictly for domestic use."
The minister said some international companies, especially from China, have evinced interest in the project. Work on the parks, to come up near the airport, will start by the second half of 2007.
According to Ramadoss, healthcare facilities in India were costly because most equipment was imported from outside, and "once this issue is addressed the situation will automatically improve".
For instance, a MRI scanner, which costs over Rs.90 million, can be manufactured in India at less than Rs.20 million. An ultrasound machine costing around Rs.1 million can be manufactured at a fifth the present cost. "So the direct benefit will go to the people."
"The healthcare sector is growing in India and so is the faith of the international community in our medical expertise," said the minister.
"To remain competitive, we have to resort to several innovative strategies. Both the parks will benefit in two ways - help people avail of medical facilities by spending less and provide an edge over other medical tourism destinations."
Without giving details of the investment proposed, Ramadoss said both the parks would be within two kilometres of Chennai airport.
A group of experts is discussing on the modalities of the vaccine park and its exact nature of operation. "We will soon come up with a clearer roadmap on this," he said.