Medical tourism: India
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Please see graphics
Medical tourism in India, as in Jan 2016
Number of patients visiting India in 2015-16 for medical tourism
2015-17/ Number of medical tourists
A rare combination of advanced facilities, skilled doctors, and low cost of treatment have made India a popular hub of medical tourism, attracting a large number of foreign patients every year. The total number of such visitors in 2017 was 4.95 lakh, Minister of State for Tourism (Independent Charge) K.J. Alphons, said in a written reply to the Lok Sabha.
This number had stood at around 2.34 lakh in 2015, and 4.27 lakh in 2016.
Bangladesh and Afghanistan continued to be the top countries from where the maximum number foreign tourist arrivals (for medical purpose) was seen. In 2017, about 2.21 lakh tourists from Bangladesh are estimated to have come to India for medical reasons, compared to 1.20 lakh in 2015 and 2.10 lakh in 2016.
Likewise, the number of medical tourists from Afghanistan stood at 27,505 in 2015 and 61,231 in 2016. The number declined to 55,681 in 2017. Other countries from where large numbers of medical tourists came to India include Iraq, Oman, Maldives, Yemen, Uzbekistan and Sudan.
Asked about the foreign exchange earned (FEE) from medical tourism, the Minister said the data was not separately available. “However, the provisional estimates of the total FEE through medical tourism during 2015, 2016 and 2017 were ₹1,35,193 crore, ₹1,54,146 crore, and ₹1,77,874 crore, respectively,” he said.
The Niti Aayog has identified medical value travel (MVT) as a major source of foreign exchange earnings. India currently has around 18% of the global medical tourism market. Its medical value travel (MVT) was pegged at $3 billion in 2015, and is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 15%, according to a report by FICCI and IMS Health, a health industry information firm. It has been estimated that by 2020, India’s medical tourism industry could be worth $9 billion, and account for 20% of the global market share.
The report pointed out that in curative care, India was the preferred destination for cardiology, orthopaedics, transplants, and ophthalmology. India also enjoyed high credibility in wellness, preventive, and alternative medicine.
2017/ Chennai- the hub
International patients get priority in cadaver transplants, bypassing long list of Indians
An organ transplant racket has surfaced in Tamil Nadu. Officials of the Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare have found that hearts harvested from brain-dead patients were given to foreign nationals, bypassing Indian patients on the waiting list.
In 2017, foreigners got about 25% of all heart transplants in the State and 33% of lung transplants.
Based on a specific input that at least three hearts retrieved from brain-dead patients were given to international patients in recent months in Chennai, the Directorate General of Health Services convened an urgent meeting in New Delhi recently and framed strict guidelines for allocation of organs to foreigners.
“It is difficult to digest that Indian hearts are not matching with our own Indian patients but matching with foreigners. How’s it possible... It seems that Indian money is not matching with foreigners’ money. Really sorry to write that we are so greedy (that) we don’t bother to help poor Indian patients and (are) trying to manipulate (the waiting list) for foreigners,” Prof. Vimal Bhandari, Director, National Organ and Tissue Transplant Organisation (NOTTO), said in a message on a WhatsApp group set up for the purpose of organ allocation.
The group comprises officials of the Tamil Nadu Transplant Authority and representatives of all government hospitals and major private hospitals (which are licensed for organ transplantation).
NOTTO, which functions under the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, is an all-India apex body for coordination and networking for procurement and distribution of organs/tissues and transplantation.
Prof. Bhandari made the comment after learning that hearts and lungs harvested from brain-dead patients were given to foreign nationals admitted to corporate hospitals. Speaking to The Hindu, he said he came to know of something “fishy” in the way hearts were allocated to foreigners in Chennai. The protocol is that an organ should first be offered to an Indian. If no Indian is available, an NRI should be considered. The question of an international patient arises only when both decline an organ offer.