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Medical tourism in India and investment into African hospitals

A market is consistently growing in India for tourists travelling from other nations to take advantage of India’s medical services. Dubbed “medical tourism”, a large number of those travelling to India are from a number of African countries. It is often the case in many African nations that hospitals are ill equipped to deal with more complex surgeries. For Africa’s more wealthy inhabitants, doctors often suggest having surgery performed elsewhere.

However, Europeans are coming to India too, drawn by high standards in the private sector, low prices and the use of English. Even the UK National Health Service is offering some patients the option of treatment funded by the British state but carried out in India.

India benefits from many skilled doctors along with the equipment to perform complex surgeries not possible in other countries. What makes India a more competitive market for medical tourism than the UK or US though is both the affordability as well as the ease of travel, with much less restricted access to visas. Some predict this market to bring more than $8 billion to the Indian economy by 2020.

The Indian government, perhaps encouraged by this growing market, has pledged to expand the scope of e-visas. A more liberal policy for short term visas allows for even easier access to the country for medical treatments, a move encouraged by medical professionals such as Dr K Hari Prasad, president of the hospitals division, Apollo Hospitals Enterprise Ltd. Dr Prasad states that this will be of vital importance to take advantage of the growing market, which, in the long run, could provide a huge degree of financial help to India’s medical sector.

States such as Maharashtra have expressed competitive aims, intending to become India’s prime location in the medical tourism industry, hoping to outplay areas such as Delhi. The state has expressed an intention to improve infrastructure and increase the online presence of its medical facilities to encourage more to flock to the state’s health care providers.

Hoping to expand their base of operations, some Indian hospitals are attempting to capitalise on Africa’s growing private medical industry by investing directly into the building of hospitals in Africa. Narayana Hrudayalaya Ltd, partnering with the Africa Health Fund, International Finance Corp and Kenyan investors are opening a 130 bed cardiac unit in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, in January.

The demand for private health care is expanding in Africa along with a growing middle class. With the influx of medical tourists from the continent it is clear that Africa is in need of better health care. Africa shares roughly 25% of the world’s disease burden, yet only 3% of the total health workers. This is a situation the Indian medical industry seems keen to capitalise on.

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