‘Unhealthy’ tourism?

AS MORE and more health tourists are arriving in India, hoping to benefit from the country’s cost-effective, efficient healthcare facilities, Indian doctors say the tourists are actually destabilising the health system.

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Published: Sun 20 Nov 2005, 9:37 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 6:48 PM

Pretty harsh words, but they say the reason for that is too much is being spent on care for foreign patients and rich Indians, while public health for the poor gets neglected. Writing in the British Medical Journal, two New Delhi-based doctors called on the Indian government to reconsider its priorities. An increasing number of patients are coming to India from the Middle East, Africa, Pakistan and Bangladesh for high-level operations and transplants, which are not carried out in their own countries. In addition, patients are also coming in from the UK, Europe and the US to take advantage of ‘quick and cheap’ treatment, heart bypasses and orthopaedic operations.

While the doctors say India is one of the top 20 countries in the world in terms of its spending on private healthcare, the country also has one of the lowest levels of public spending on healthcare in the world — less than one per cent of the GDP. Clearly, while it is fine attracting health tourists to spend in the country — a visit to the Taj or Rajasthan is thrown in as part of the package — India cannot afford to ignore its teeming millions and let them suffer ill-health and malnutrition, while the rich get the best of treatment in the world. If India plans to become a superpower in 2020, as it so often claims, 90 per cent of its population should earn more than $500 per month. Only then can it claim to be a superpower and all its citizens get quality healthcare.

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