India is often known for Ayurvedic treatments, yoga and other alternative medicines, but Chennai, the gateway to South India, is gaining popularity as a global medical tourism hub due to its cluster of world-class hospitals and to his medical skills.
Tamil Nadu state, where Chennai is located, attracts about 40 percent of the country’s medical tourists, former state tourism minister Vellamandi N Natarajan said in 2019. Foreign patients from neighboring countries, Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia visit the city to undergo procedures and treatments such as heart bypass surgery, organ transplant, hip replacement, bone marrow transplant and eye surgeries. All massive and complex interventions.
“India and Chennai in particular are fast becoming a medical hub for international patients, largely due to the high quality medical facilities available at a fraction of the cost compared to the Western world,” said Dr C Senthil Nathan, Chennai ophthalmologist. .
Other factors in the city’s popularity as a medical hub are high success rates and short wait times, he added.
Medical care in Chennai costs much less than in developed countries, about a third of the costs in those countries, especially considering Indian manufacturing and access to generic drugs. “This, coupled with the city’s reputation for high-quality medical care, has made Chennai a popular destination for medical tourism,” said Dr. Senthil Nathan.
For example, a heart bypass surgery that can cost up to $26,000 in Western countries can cost as little as $7,900 in India, according to the Indian think tank NITI Aayog.
Medical tourism in the country received a further boost in 2018 when the Indian government established a $641 million fund to improve service sectors, including medical tourism. In 2020, India ranked 10th in the global index of medical tourism, an industry estimated to be worth $53 billion globally by 2028.
The return of Indian diaspora doctors from abroad has also increased the quality of health services in the country. Many Indian doctors, such as Chennai-based neuropsychiatrist Dr Ennapadam S Krishnamoorthy, have returned from Europe, the UK and the US, attracted by the country’s improved living conditions and medical technology.
“I saw India and Chennai as a land of emerging opportunities and recognized that the West could set limits for career growth,” he said.
Many Indian doctors abroad, increasingly challenged by the strict health regulations on doctors, have also returned to India to work in Chennai’s corporate hospitals, which offer high salaries and world-class infrastructure.
“Returning doctors are often successful if they adapt to the culture and working environment, which are very different from those in the West,” added Dr Krishnamoorthy.
“Chennai is home to some of India’s best hospitals and medical facilities, many of them accredited by international organizations. These facilities offer state-of-the-art technology and equipment, as well as highly trained and experienced medical staff,” said Dr. Venkatesh Munikrishnan, colorectal surgeon at Apollo Hospitals. He also noted that the city is known for its expertise in areas such as cardiology, oncology, orthopedics and transplants.
Hospitals like the Apollo have also established partnerships with international insurance companies that help patients cover medical bills. Most hospitals have a dedicated international wing that works with travel agencies and homestay programs to deliver a comprehensive door-to-door experience.
“Chennai was one of the original centers in India for medical expertise as early as the 60s and 70s. Eminent physicians like Dr Mahadevan (author of the classic textbook on surgery) and Dr B Ramamurthy (Asia’s first neurosurgeon) have ensured this, as well as the presence of three of India’s oldest medical colleges,” he said Dr Krishnamoorthy.
The establishment of the Apollo hospital, India’s first corporate hospital, in the 1980s also strengthened Chennai’s status as a hub for medical tourism, and the “leadership position [della città nel turismo medico] it is set to continue,” he added. the city has a long tradition in the field of medicine, dating back to the 60s and 70s.
The establishment of the Apollo hospital, India’s first corporate hospital, in the 1980s also strengthened Chennai’s status as a hub for medical tourism, and the “leadership position [della città nel turismo medico] it is set to continue,” he added.
The city’s push to reach out to foreign patients has also come under criticism from locals. Many low-income Indians often struggle to afford any form of healthcare, with public services generally underfunded and private services too expensive.
Many experts believe that medical tourism is unethical and develops at the cost of neglecting basic health care for citizens.
K Srinath Reddy, a cardiologist and director of the Public Health Foundation of India, told India’s Economic Times that the government’s proposed expansion of medical facilities for tourists is a bad idea.
“If a foreigner wants to come to India for a special treat, that’s fine. But we shouldn’t build our facilities primarily to treat foreign patients. We must first ensure that our healthcare needs are met efficiently and fairly.”
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