ISRO today (May 16, 2006) signed Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) with four specialty hospitals to further expand its telemedicine network. The four specialty hospitals are Manipal Hospital, Bangalore; Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi; Madras Diabetic Research Foundation, Chennai and Dr Venkatrao Dawle Medical Foundation, Ambajogai (Maharashtra). The MOU were signed at Antariksh Bhavan, Bangalore, the headquarters of ISRO by Mr A Bhaskaranarayana, Director, Satellite Communications Programme, on behalf of ISRO and Mr R Basil, Director and CEO, Manipal Health Systems; Mr T Jagannathan, Chief Administrative Officer, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital; Dr V Mohan, President and Director, Madras Diabetes Research Foundation and Dr Arun Dawle, Executive President, Dr Venkatrao Dawle Medical Foundation.
ISRO's satellite based Telemedicine network, which started in 2001 on an experimental basis, is aimed at linking remote/rural district hospitals with super-speciality hospitals in major cities via INSAT. While ISRO provides the software, hardware and communication equipment as well as satellite bandwidth, the speciality hospitals provide the infrastructure, manpower and maintain the system. ISRO's telemedicine network has matured into an operational system and now covers 165 hospitals - 132 remote/rural/district hospitals/health centres connected to 33 speciality hospitals located in major cities.
Speaking on the occasion, Mr G Madhavan Nair, Chairman, ISRO, said that ISRO's telemedicine programme is an example of societal orientation of Indian space programme. He expressed his happiness that several private speciality hospitals besides state governments and NGOs have been showing keen interest in establishing the telemedicine network to contribute to a noble cause of extending quality healthcare to the rural population. He also highlighted the efforts made by ISRO in establishing Village Resource Centres (VRC) which are being set up in association with NGOs, trusts and state and central agencies. Mr Madhavan Nair emphasised the need to integrate telemedicine also in these VRCs along with space enabled information related to natural resources, tele-education, farmers' advisory services, tele-fishery, etc.
Of the four hospitals that signed MOU with ISRO today, Manipal Hospital has its head office in Bangalore with branches in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Goa and Sikkim catering to the needs of rural patients. Sir Ganga Ram Hospital of New Delhi is adopting government community health centers at Taluk level in Haryana and Rajasthan. This hospital is already planning to integrate telemedicine in VRCs in these states and it is also active in the scheme "Providing Urban amenities in Rural Areas (PURA)" envisioned by the President of India. The Madras Diabetic Research Foundation has set up a mobile telemedicine unit to visit various villages around Chennai while Dr Venkatrao Dawle Medical Foundation's mobile telemedicine unit covers rural population of southern Maharashtra.