The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Five-star turn to treat the sick
- Hospitals tie up with hotels to provide service with a smile

Difficult doctors, scornful attendants, couldn’t-care-less staff — complaints of ill-treatment in the state healthcare sector range beyond medical negligence. But some of that could change — at least in some elite private medical centres — as hospitality hotfoots into the hospital.

Hospitals in town are turning to hotels to train their staff to serve patients with a smile. “The feel-good factor of the patient has become a vital feature,” says Satadal Saha, managing director of Westbank Hospital. “The clinical component is one part but it is also important to serve the food in an attractive way, arrange the room properly and create the right environment to help the patient recover.”

Till a few years ago, hospitality would have found little room in the hospital, but with growing focus on the all-round quality of treatment, taking a leaf out of a star hotel’s service book appears healthy.

So, Westbank’s housekeeping department staff regularly goes from Howrah to Hotel Kenilworth to pick up people-friendly tips. Also, a consultant, former executive of a five-star hotel, has been paying regular visits to the hospital for the past three months. Complaints from patients have dropped dramatically, claim hospital officials.

And there’s a bridge across the Bypass, with a formal cross-training agreement in place between Apollo Gleneagles Hospital and Hyatt Regency, Calcutta. “Our staff are undergoing training in customer services, dealing with grooming and other features of hospitality, while the hotel staff are learning about hygiene and safety,” says Josuah Goh, director, Apollo Gleneagles Hospital.

The two-way training programme kicked off this month and promises to be an ongoing process. “The aim is to increase our sensitivity to the patient’s individual needs, not just the medical needs,” explains Goh.

“Providing services at a hospital means not just telling patients what to do and knowing how to administer medication. It means treating them like guests in a top-notch hotel and not as sick persons. The comfort level contributes to the recovery of the patient,” stresses Goh.

The training chart has four modules — customer service, customer recovery, etiquette and personal grooming of the staff to add “pleasantness” to one’s personality. “We are hoping to imbibe the slickness of the hotel to add another aspect to our healthcare,” says Goh.

The hospital’s 450 staff members will undergo training in 12 batches, with those dealing directly with patients being on the first list.

“The training will help us smoothen the rough edges,” feels A. Guhathakurta, manager operations, Apollo Gleneagles Hospital, who undertook a four-hour training module.

“As part of the cross-training, food-handlers and cooks of our hotel are being trained in hygiene,” said Hemant Mediratta, director of marketing, Hyatt Regency, Calcutta.

“Although they are trained in all these, we are trying to adopt a proper scientific approach,” he adds. A batch of food-handlers has already undergone the once-in-a-fortnight training.

Hyatt officials say the theme of the daylong course — in what they term as their first such cross-training programme — is hygiene, with safety tips and first-aid tools also on the agenda.

Other medical units, too, are treading the hospitality route. “Although we have no formal tie-up with any hotel, we send our staff to some of the top ones for training in various aspects of hospitality,” says Rupali Basu, general manager, Wockhardt Hospital and Kidney Institute.

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