Access to cancer treatment is a rarity not only in India, but in a large portion of southeast Asia. The number of new cases and deaths due to cancer doubled in India from 1990 to 2016, with many cases being treatable types of cancer if they had been caught in early stages. Behind India’s high cancer morbidity rate is a lack of education around the disease and limited medical services and insurance coverage.
The Tata Medical Center was created to change this reality, acting as a beacon of hope for patients from all over India, as well as neighboring Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal. More than 50 percent of the hospital’s inpatient beds provide free treatment, while the remaining beds bring in funds that are reinvested into the institution to continue providing charitable healthcare.
Almost immediately after Tata Medical Center opened its first phase in 2011, the demand for its services far outweighed the capacity of its 150 inpatient bed hospital and outpatient facility. The director of the medical center, Dr. Mammen Chandy, stated the center had to turn away 30 percent of patients because of lack of space and that some patients waited two months for a surgical slot. To accommodate demand, we continued our partnership with the institution by designing a second phase that opened in 2019 and added 240 beds as well as an education block with an auditorium and rooms for visiting faculty and students. The added educational space now allows Tata host medical trainees and become a center for academic medicine.
The design team planned phase two around the central courtyard from the award-winning original design, and paid special attention to retain its iconic elegance without limiting areas of spontaneous interaction between researchers and clinicians. The exterior design of the two phases is seamless, creating a contextually and climatically responsive medical center built of native sandstone oriented to capture prevailing winds.
Across both phases, treatment processes and patient encounters are optimized to improve patient experience and increase staff efficiency. Natural light, views of gardens, a sensitive use of materials and carefully crafted spaces enhance the human experience. The exterior sandstone facades are woven into the interior design, complemented by warm wood and exquisite art. The seamless progression from public to private spaces, giving it more of a campus feel, uplifts the spirits of both children and adult patients as they cope with the physiological and psychological stresses of cancer treatment.
The outdoor spaces and courtyards are frequented by patients, visitors, doctors and staff looking for a moment of respite amidst the frenetic pace of the medical center. The lotus pond is especially popular, paying tribute to the important role courtyards and water features play in traditional Indian architecture. Because many family members come to visit and assist with care, waiting rooms were made larger to accommodate these groups along with built-in benches in public patient wards for those staying for long periods of time.
One of the key additions in phase two was a children’s ICU, where the pediatric population can receive specialized care and accommodate their families. Bengali fables are depicted in the interior design, providing comfort and familiarity. An open terrace off the pediatric ward is appreciated by staff members as a nearby connection with nature, as well as a space for kids to be in a non-medical environment.
The opening of phase one of the medical center in 2011 immediately showed just how necessary a cancer treatment center was in the region. The center, which was seeing approximately 17,000 new patients a year before the phase two opening, needed more resources. With phase 2 now serving patients, the medical center’s ability to provide early detection and treatment increases significantly, playing a critical role in the the mass delivery of healthcare in this rapidly industrializing part of the world.