Medical visas to boost medical tourism in India
Posted on December 9, 2014
Chennai: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement that immediate medical visas will be issued to patients from SAARC countries has been applauded by corporate hospitals. Medical experts say that the new initiative will attract many more patients to the country, especially Chennai, boosting the healthcare industry.
“About 80 to 90 percent of international patients arriving in India, land in Chennai, to avail of medical facilities the hospitals here,” says Harish Manian, facility director, Fortis Malar Hospital.
“The cost of treatment and modest living costs in the city attracts around 1,000 patients from Saarc countries every month. Most of them are for cardiac problems, orthopaedics, neurological problems and a few for transplants.”
Currently, it is visa on arrival for patients from Bhutan, Afghanistan, and Sri Lanka. It takes at least 10 to 15 days for patients from Bangladesh to get one. But, the visa process for Pakistan is strict and it takes more than three to four weeks.
The other preferred medical destinations are Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. While medical facilities in Singapore are more advanced it is still expensive in the mentioned countries.
“If heart transplant costs about Rs 25 lakh in India, it is three to four times higher in Europe and five to ten times higher in the US,” he continues.
“About 30 per cent of the patients from Saarc countries arrive at the Apollo Hospitals are mostly from Bangladesh. India processes about 2,000 applications from Bangladesh per day,” says Jithu Jose, general manager, International Patient Services, Apollo Hospitals.
“India should also relax the visa rules for patient attenders.” he says.
T.I. Joshua, deputy general manager, International Business, Global Hospitals recalls a patient from Bangladesh, who had to come alone to the hospital for liver surgery, since his wife was denied a visa.
The hospital delayed the surgery for five days, until his relatives from West Bengal arrived in Chennai to take care of him.
Welcoming the move, Dr Prathap C. Reddy, Chairman Apollo Hospitals Group, says, “The announcement will give a huge boost to medical tourism in India, which we at Apollo have been aggressively propagating in promoting India as a global health destination. Life, as we have always advocated, is priceless and no borders and boundaries should prevent reach of medicine for the needy,” he adds.