Saturday, 30 April 2011

US citizens treated in India say healthcare here is ‘top class’

On Wednesday in Virginia, US President Obama said

“My preference would be that you don't have to travel to Mexico or to get cheap health care. I'd like you to be able to get it right here in the United States of America that is high quality.”

A majority of the leading healthcare providers across the country are “disappointed” with US President Barack Obama’s statement, discouraging US citizens from visiting India or Mexico for cheap medical treatment.

By saying such a thing, Obama hinted that the quality of healthcare in India is poor. It would be fine to say that the healthcare in India is cheap but it is not acceptable to hint that it is of poor quality,” said Sujit Chatterjee, chief executive officer (CEO) of Hiranandani Hospital.

Medical tourism on the rise

Last year, a total of 1.5 lakh foreigners visited India for various medical facilities of which only 17 per cent were US citizens.

Every year there is two-three per cent increase in the number of foreign patients. Chatterjee said that US should conduct a study of patients who visit India and also record their experiences.

Sharing her healthcare experience, US citizen Sydney Gambill, who is here for a knee replacement surgery said, “I had done my left knee replacement surgery here in 2007.

Not only the money, but the facilities and post-operative care here is excellent,” said Gambill, who was operated at Fortis Hospital.

A nurse by profession, Gambill read on the Internet about the Joint Commission International (JCI) accredited hospitals and the packages they offered. “The cost for the surgery in US was $60,000 whereas in India, I paid only $7000,” Gambill said.

Another patient, Mary Knoll, 62, a school teacher from Massachusetts, who got a facelift here said, “The surgery was done extremely well and the hospital facilities here is top class.” She added that the facelift surgery was around $25,000 in the US but cost her 20 per cent less in India.

Sydney Gambill (left) who had a successful knee replacement surgery in India has returned for the operation on her other leg. Mary Knoll who had a facelift done here. Both women say the facilities in India are good

What Obama said

On Wednesday, Obama described medicare as one of the most important pillars of social safety net. He had said, “My preference would be that you don’t have to travel to Mexico or India to get cheap healthcare. I’d like you to be able to get it right here in the United States of America that’s of high quality”.

Healthcare comparison

According to Chatterjee, India is doing extremely well on all the healthcare parameters. “The hospital infection rate in India is far less as compared to the US. The average hospital stay of patients in India is less than that in US.

The infrastructure in tertiary care hospitals is better or at par with the US hospitals. Even we have high-end machines that are used in US,” he said.

Airing a similar view, Dr Lloyd Nazareth, chief operating officer of Fortis Hospitals said that US cannot match up with the healthcare rates offered by top Indian hospitals. “Therefore, there is no fear of losing any medical tourism,” he said.

However, Dr Mohan Thomas, a senior cosmetic surgery consultant from Breach Candy Hospital, who is also a member of the Medical Tourism Advisory Council said, “As a responsible head of the country, we can’t blame Obama for making such a statement. The country is facing a bad economic downturn. Foreign patients will continue coming to India for treatment.”

~ Jyoti Shelar, Times Group (