In the 1990’s, Paul Ramesh, one of the well-known Indian emigrant doctors, shifted to Britain to get the best surgical training, later to earn a good pay cheque and have better living standards. But today, he is back in his hometown Chennai, Tamil Nadu and treating his patients from the West.
Although the amount of Indian doctors working abroad is large but Apollo Hospitals says that on a yearly basis, their national chain gets around 300 applications from doctors alone working in Britain. Probably, the reasons are better standard of living and advancement in medical technology.
Better earnings and expertise options in the West lured the Indian doctors. However, lowered salary packages under National Health Service in Britain and increasingly difficult healthcare regulations in the US are now bringing them back to India.
M. Balasubramanian, President, Indian Medical Association, Tamil Nadu cites that this trend is now reversing,
“The trend is reversing,” said M. Balasubramanian, president of the Indian Medical Association in Tamil Nadu. “More corporate hospitals are coming up, especially in Chennai. Now (doctors) have an opportunity to use their expertise in their own place… and pull the patients from abroad also.”
Every year, Apollo admits an excellent number of patients from West for varied medical services, with one of the recent ones being a double knee replacement of an elderly patient from Kenya. The consultant Orthopedist, K.P.Kosygran, was working in Britain till 2011, also informed that from past sometime, doctors are coming back here, “Certainly when I left India there were not many joint replacement centres or surgeons in India who could train us.” He added that as Indians give importance to their family ties, many are coming back to take care of their parents and also wish to share their global experience. According to him, patients are from all around the world are coming here to get best treatment at cheaper costs.
As per the statistics of US medical travel resource, Patients Beyond Borders, the cost of medical treatments offered in India are sometimes 90 percent lower in comparison to the costs in the US, which makes it one of the cheapest places for medical procedures. Josef Woodmanm CEO, Patients Beyond Borders says that although patients from Africa, Middle East and other Asian countries come to India but the number of American patients is also growing. “On a heart operation they can save $50,000 to $70,000.”
One of such patients from North America was Doug Stoda who visited Chennai for a special hip replacement procedure by an Indian doctor who learnt the skill in Britain. Ann, Stoda’s wife said the coming to India was a big deal for them but the experience was very good. She said, “We just had to get to the airport in Chennai and they had everything set up.”
Apollo hospitals have several translators for foreign patients, around 70,000 in a year and also have a special ‘international patients area’ with different clocks showing times in different cities.
As per RNCOS, a global consultancy firm, medical tourism industry of India is likely to see over 20 percent annual growth rate, between the years 2013- 15.
Currently working at the Frontier Lifeline Hospital, Chennai, Anto Sahayaraj who was in New Zealand till 2012 says that patients come from those countries who really wish to have excellent medical services at affordable prices. He says, “They see a lot of Indians in Western countries and they realise that some of us do come back. With us technology comes back, so they have increasing confidence.” A specialist in paediatric cardiac surgery he recently performed heart surgery on a one-month-old baby from Bahrain. He adds that the global experience of Indian doctors also satisfies foreign patients.
Doctors believe that the healthcare system of India is still largely lagging and needs to be improvement. N. Ragavan is now back to India from Britain. A consultant uro-oncologist who is a specialist in prostate cancer, he says that there is difference of around million-dollars between Britain and India. Britain offers universal healthcare coverage to its people but in India, people really have to slog hard to pay for good-quality private treatment as public services are taken care of and funded in a poor manner. He adds, “Financial affordability is the biggest problem that India faces.” Ragavan hopes that that the health insurance cover will slowly grow in the next 10 years.
He furthers, “Working in India is a double-edged sword. It’s never organised here. What I’m going to do next week is not sure, and what I’m going to do this week is very chaotic.” But he also adds there are benefits of working in corporate hospitals too such as quick medical investigation with little or no waiting lists.