Foreigners go to India for cheap operations while locals suffer
Indian doctors treat a child at a hospital in Gorakhpur. Foreign patients are increasingly heading to India for cheap operations while the health of residents is being neglected.
Foreign patients are increasingly heading to India for cheap operations while the health of residents is being neglected.
Writing in the British Medical Journal on Friday, Dr Samiran Nundy, from Sir Ganda Ram Hospital in New Delhi, and Dr Amit Sengupta from the People's Health Movement in India, said that a growing numbers of foreigners are travelling to India for private health care.
However, India has one of the lowest levels of public spending on healthcare, they said -- less than one percent of gross domestic product.
While the private health sector has expanded, many drugs and tests are unavailable to most Indians, they added.
They said large corporations had begun to dominate the private market with hospitals providing services "only foreigners and the richest Indians can afford".
Patients were coming from Africa, the Middle East, Pakistan and Bangladesh for procedures that were unavailable in their own countries.
But patients were also coming from Britain, the rest of Europe and North America for "quick, efficient and cheap coronary bypasses or orthopaedic procedures".
The doctors said that a shoulder operation in Britain would cost around 10,000 pounds (14,660 euros, 17,110 dollars) in the private sector or otherwise involve several months waiting for treatment on the National Health Service.
"In India, the same operation can be done for 1,700 pounds and within 10 days of a first email contact," they said.
However, conditions experienced by Indian patients were very different.
Each harassed doctor may have to see more than 100 patients in a single outpatient session.
"Some of these doctors advise patients, legally or illegally, to 'meet them privately' if they want more personalised care," they said.
The doctors said their were even reports of patients having to bribe hospital staff to get clean bed linen.
They added: "In India, each year tuberculosis kills half a million people and diarrhoeal disease more than 600,000.
"It is time for the government to pay more attention to improving the health of Indians rather than to enticing foreigners from affluent countries with offers of low cost operations and convalescent visits to the Taj Mahal."
The Independent on Sunday said in August that more than 10,000 Britons per year were being tempted abroad by plastic surgery firms for tummy tucks, breast enlargements and facelifts with a recuperation holiday thrown in.
One firm which organises such trips told the newspaper: "The big advantage for us is that the National Health Service is pretty much run on Indian doctors and nurses. They are trusted."
November 18, 2005