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Medical Tourism in India

Gujarat becomes the preferred medical tourism destination:
More than 1,000 NRI's and foreigners visit every year

By Padma Bhargav, Freelance Journalist

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Ahmedabad, India-With world class health facilities, zero waiting time and most importantly one tenth of medical costs spent in the US or UK, Gujarat is becoming the preferred medical tourist destination and also matching the services available in Delhi, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh.

According to a rough estimate, about 1,200 to 1,500 NRI's, NRG's and a small percentage of foreigners come every year for different medical treatments, the majority being cardiac patients and a good number of patients coming for joint replacement, plastic surgery and In-vitro fertilization. Dr.Viren Shah, Medical Superintendent of Sterling Hospital, Ahmedabad says, "About 500 to 700 patients visit us for cardiac problems, joint replacement and plastic surgery. The medical tourism is increasing at a very fast rate and it is only due to the vision of our government. We expect it to increase further and Gujarat has a bright future in this area."

The state has various advantages and the large NRG population living in the UK and USA is one of the major ones. Out of the 20 million-plus Indians spread across the globe, Gujarati's boasts 6 million, which is around 30 per cent of the total NRI population. Non resident Gujaratis or popularly known as NRG's coming to India for personal and medical visits are also marketing the health services available in the state. The specialized clinics and hospitals especially in the private sector is gaining popularity through word of mouth, and this is contributing to the inflow of medical tourists. Among the other advantages are the highly qualified specialists in the field of Ophthalmology, Urology, Embryology, Orthodontics, Oncology and Orthopedics. The facilities and equipment available at the hospitals are comparable with the best hospitals in the country and even the world.

Apart from low cost and best world class medical facilities, the hospitals are offering pick and drop services, ambulance services etc. Such health facilities are attracting the patients from Africa, America and the UK where waiting the standard period is between 6 to 18 months. Apollo Hospitals, Ahmedabad also receives high number of foreign tourists for all types of surgeries and health checkups. Talking about the advantages the coordinator for medical tourism in Apollo, Dilip Anantraman said, "People are now aware of the health facilities being provided in Gujarat and knowledge of English language is another major advantage, along with a zero waiting period. Till now Maharashtra was the hottest medical destination but now more and more people are coming to our state and we have been able to break the monopoly to a great extent.'

The major factor for increasing medical tourists to the state is the low costs for cardiac surgery, angiography, joint replacements, radiation and other medical services, which are one tenth of the costs incurred abroad. For instance, joint replacement costs 1.25 to 1.50 lakhs in Gujarat and the same surgery is done for $20,000 in America. Similarly a cardiac surgery is done for $4000 in our state and the same is done for $ 25,000 (apprx.) in the US. Similarly In-Vitro Fertilization costs one-fifth in Gujarat when compared to the USA.

Medical tourism is a recent concept in India and Gujarat has been able to match world standards in almost all areas of treatment. Until recently the capital city, Delhi, ruled as the commercial capital along with Mumbai as the most preferred medical tourist destinations. According to Dr. Pankaj Shah, Director, Medical Cancer & Research Institute in the city, "We are receiving lot of inquiries from foreign countries and our main target is to provide medical services to NRI's who cannot afford high costs of treatment or lack sufficient medical facilities. We are getting lot of inquiries from Uganda, Chicago, Nigeria, and the Middle East. The costs are almost 1/20th of the costs incurred in the USA or UK."

Talking about the methods to improve the medical tourism, Dr. Bharat Joshi of Melbourne IVF Gujarat said, "We need to improve the air connectivity between Ahmedabad and other countries. Presently we have direct connectivity between Ahmedabad and London. Besides we need to be transparent with the medical procedure followed and take measures to improve our success rate."

Advantages Gujarat

  • Zero waiting periods
  • 1/10 to 1/20th of the costs involved for medical treatment in USA or UK
  • Specialized hospitals and clinics
  • Gujarati doctors participating in world medical conferences help them to know about the latest developments in the medical field.
  • Knowledge of English language
  • Large percentage of NRG's among NRI's
  • Direct air connectivity between Ahmedabad and London
  • Cost comparison - major medical costs between India and USA / UK (in US dollars)

    TreatmentUSA / UK India (Gujarat)
    Cardiac Surgery20000- 400004000 -8000
    CT Scan 1200 50
    Cornea Transplant 18000 – 20000 800 - 1500
    Joint Replacement 17000 – 20000 3300
    Angiography 3000 300
    IVF 5000 1500
    Root Canal 600-700 33

    Looking at the increasing medical tourists the state government has recently announced a medical tourism policy 2006, which will be helpful for providing better health care facilities and give exposure to the medical fraternity. The policy is also expected to give a lot of revenue to the government. Under this policy a ‘Medicity' is also being set up which will provide all types of health facilities in one complex namely Allopathic, Homeopathy, Yoga, Ayurveda, nature therapy and other alternative therapies.

    Padma Bhargav is a freelance journalist and can be reached at e-mail: ananta_bhargav@yahoo.com

















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