New Delhi Safdarjung Hospital will soon be India’s first central government-run hospital to offer robotic surgeries. Hospital authorities told TOI that the Union ministries for health and finance have approved the acquisition of the equipment which is likely to be installed next month. The move could herald transformation of Safdarjung from a multi-specialty to modern super-specialty hospital with latest equipment. A robot costs nearly Rs 18 crore and the cost of treatment using this state-of-art technology is about one lakh more than the cost of any conventional procedure in private facilities. Dr Anup Kumar, professor and head, department of urology and renal transplant at Safdarjung Hospital said that they would be offering robotic surgeries to poor for free. “Others will have to pay for disposables used,” he added. Unlike a conventional procedure where surgeons have to cut open a patient to access internal organs, robotic surgery is performed using three small holes: Through one hole, a camera is inserted for 3D vision and the other two holes help the surgeon operate using instruments held by robotic arms.”The surgeon has to manoeuvre the robotic arms using a command centre with a 3D screen that looks like a computer. This reduces duration of surgery and the risk of error,” the head of urology department added. The urology department at Safdarjung Hospital has a waiting time of about one year for minimally invasive surgeries using conventional approach at present. Dr Kumar said they will aim to bring the waiting period down to three months with the help of robotic technology . “For example, removal of cancerous prostate using conventional method takes us about three and a half hours. With robotic assistance, we can finish it in one and a half hours,” he explained further. The first urological robotic program was started in India in 2006 at AIMS. Since then, more than 50 centers across the country have acquired the robotic technology and it is used regularly for surgeries involving urology, gynaecology, pediatric, general surgery and cardiac divisions. Dr Arun Kumar, senior consultant of robotic surgery at Apollo Hospital, said that acquisition of the modern technology is a welcome step. “Poor people should also have access to newer technologies,” he added.