Advancing Safe Surgery in India Long Form Page

Advancing Safe Surgery in India

Operation Smile and Baxter: Project Overview

The Baxter International Foundation has committed $2.2 million over three years to support a project that advances safe surgery in India. With this support, we are implementing a scalable solution for equitably increasing access to surgical and multidisciplinary cleft care for some of the world’s most marginalized patients.  

The funds support the ongoing maintenance of Operation Smile’s three year-round multidisciplinary and surgical care centers in Mumbai, Srinigar and Bangalore, operated in partnership with INGA Health Foundation. In addition, the funds helped Operation Smile launch a new center in Durgapur, West Bengal, at the IQ City Narayana Multispecialty Hospital on March 7, 2019. The Durgapur center serves as a hub for operations, supporting surgical service, multidisciplinary care, education and training, and ongoing medical programs in West Bengal and surrounding states. 

Over the coming three years, this project is expected to impact 300,000 patients, family members, community members and health workers. 

Through our local partnership with the Inga Health Foundation, we’re also conducting surgical programs in strategic locations and engaging with key government stakeholders to promote statewide collaboration.  

Addressing the Challenge: Care Centers

With a burgeoning population and less than 5 percent of gross domestic product expenditures directed towards public health care,* the health system in India is ill-equipped to provide comprehensive care to those living with cleft lip and cleft palate throughout the country. Currently, the backlog of untreated cleft cases stands at an estimated 200,000.**

Operation Smile has long understood that a suite of comprehensive care services that extends beyond surgical care is necessary to support the complete rehabilitation of patients with cleft conditions. However, the specialties required for comprehensive treatment of cleft conditions are scarce in India – services such as speech therapy, dentistry, and nutritional counseling. The effects of these disparities fall most heavily on the poorest populations, who bear the worst of a myriad of overlapping social, cultural and structural barriers to care. 

We believe that year-round multidisciplinary cleft care centers are a key aspect of working toward a sustainable solution to these challenges.

Operation Smile has been providing high-quality treatment and care to patients throughout India since 2002, executing medical programs in 24 cities across the country and extending surgical care to more than 22,000 patients. However, we continue to see a significant number of patients who have never received surgical or multidisciplinary cleft care. We frequently encounter patients with complex cleft and craniofacial conditions whose care needs are more complex than what we can provide in a short-term medical mission setting. 

Care centers greatly expand availability of care to patients and their families – they provide our patients with greater access outside of medical missions and simultaneously allow us to take on more complex cases that are often ill-suited for a mission model. 

Our centers in India, which are operated in partnership with the Inga Health Foundation, provide ongoing access to surgical and multidisciplinary cleft care in Durgapur, Mumbai, Bangalore and Srinagar.  

All four centers are located within larger hospital settings, and at each site, we are provided with at least one operating room and bed space in pre- and post-operative wards. At the new center in Durgapur, we also have a dedicated ward for our patients. This model allows us to share essential resources with the hospital, such as surgical supplies and equipment for the operating and recovery rooms. 

Our goal is to enable each center to provide patients with pre-health evaluations, speech consultations, dentistry and nutritional counseling. At three of the centers, we will also provide orthodontic services. 


* World Bank. (2015). Current health expenditure (% of GDP). Retrieved from World Bank Current Health Expenditure: 
** Carlson, L. C., Stewart, B. T., Hatcher, K. W., Kabetu, C., VanderBurg, R., & Magee, W. P. (2016, December). A Model of the Unmet Need for Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate Surgery in Low-and Middle-Income Countries. World Journal of Surgery, 40(12), 2857-2867. 

Project Updates

The Durgapur Care Center Opens 

On March 7, 2019, Operation Smile India, in partnership with the INGA Health Foundation, opened the doors to its fourth year-round care center in the IQ City Narayana Multispecialty Hospital. The care center offers patients in the state of West Bengal year-round access to surgical and multidisciplinary cleft care.  

On the first day, Operation Smile India’s team provided free health evaluations to 37 patients and spent time training and orienting hospital nurses and staff members on Operation Smile’s policies, standards, systems and procedures.  

In less than one week after opening, the center demonstrated its value – nearly 70 patients received free health evaluations to ascertain eligibility for surgery, and over 25 patients received surgery. Absent the center, these patients would have had to wait until a large-scale medical program or forgo care entirely. In the coming months, additional services including speech therapy will be added to provide patients with the additional care services needed to achieve full rehabilitation and social reintegration.   

“More often than not, populations within India are unable to have access to the proper surgical and multidisciplinary care needed for complete cleft care due to financial and social barriers,” said Partha Saddhu, M.D., medical director at the Durgapur center. “Thanks to the Baxter International Foundation and Operation Smile’s support, we’re able to bring quality care to our patients at the Durgapur center and provide free surgery and advance care for those who need it most.”

About Our Partners

Every day, Baxter strives to make a meaningful difference in the lives of those who depend on Baxter products and in the communities where employees live and work. The Baxter International Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Baxter International, helps advance the company’s mission to save and sustain lives. Baxter partners with organizations around the world to increase access to healthcare for the underserved, to develop the next generation of innovators who will lead the way in advancing healthcare and to create a long-lasting impact in communities globally. Baxter is proud to support initiatives and organizations that make a positive, lasting impact in these critical areas. For more information, please click here.

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