Thursday, February 24, 2005

World looks to ‘Dr Bangalore’ now

World looks to ‘Dr Bangalore’ now
The Times of India

Bangalore: Former cop from Bradford, UK, George Marshall fretted over his physician’s advice three months ago. The advise — to undergo a coronary bypass surgery — left him with two options. Either wait for six months to get a free surgery done at National Health Service or cough up 15,000 pounds for an immediate surgery at any private hospital in Europe.

Surfing the Net opened a third option for him and the 73-year-old Briton decided to fly 5,000 miles to IT city Bangalore for his operation at a private super-speciality heart hospital. The whole affair cost Marshall just 4,300 pounds. Marshall is reportedly the 50th patient from the first-world countries to undergo intensive life-saving procedure in Bangalore.

The increasing number is forging new definitions for medical tourism in a city, where medical tourists, until now, consisted only of those from third-world countries (in Africa and south-east Asia) or those visiting the city for traditional Indian medicine.

A study by the Confederation of Indian Industry and a private consultancy firm has estimated “medical tourism’’ could be worth Rs 100 billion by 2012.

Last year, some 1.5 lakh foreigners visited India for treatment, with the number rising by 15 per cent every year, the study has stated.
With a large pool of highly trained doctors and low treatment prices, the city’s healthcare sector aims at replicating the software success. So far, patients falling in the NHS backlog who have been considering other options in Germany, Belgium, Thailand, Singapore and others have been looking towards the Indian shores. “The present NHS referrals to hospitals within three hours’ flying time will eventually be lifted, bettering India’s health tourism prospects,’’ say industry sources.

“I can say that the care and facilities in India are easily comparable,’’ says Marshall, who underwent the surgery at Wockhardt Hospital and Heart Institute.

Wockhardt Hospital vice-president (operations) Vishal Bali calls it global connectivity. “There used to be a time gap in terms of medical technology reaching India, but not anymore. Also, with every third doctor in UK or the US known to be an Indian, first-world patients attach a reasonable amount of confidence and comfort in being treated in India.’’

The number of health tourists from countries like Singapore and the Gulf doubled in the later half of last year, say administrators at HOSMAT and Manipal Hospital. At Narayana Hrudayalaya, over 30 per cent of their patients are from third world countries.
Industry experts also peg Bangalore’s USP in health tourism to a host of other innovative facilities such as airport-to-hospital bed car service, concierge facility, Internet access, private chefs, in-house interpreter services, sightseeing packages, etc. Suggestion books in hospitals also indicate that patients from the developed world have been impressed by post-operative nursing care and public relations.

Comparing Costs

Heart bypass
UK: 15,000; France: 13,000; US: 13 ,250; India: 4 ,300

Hip replacement
UK: 9,000; France: 7,600; US: 15,900; India: 3,180

Cataract operation
UK: 2 ,900; France: 1,000; US: 2,120; India: 660 (All figures are in pounds )

In demand
Cardiac procedures, neurosurgery (especially treatment for prolapsed discs, neck and spine injuries), neurology, joint and hip replacement, plastic surgery, dental procedures, dermatology, vascular procedures, urology.


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