Medical Tourism Industry Seeks Government Support Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic
New Delhi: The medical tourism the industry was one of the first few businesses to fall off due to the global pandemic. The US$5-billion industry, which was at its peak, had to undergo challenges when the virus quickly spread across Indian states, borders were sealed, flights grounded, and visas were revoked.
India typically receives 1.68 million patients every year for consults surrounding cardiology, orthopedics, IVF, dentistry, transplants, and Ayurvedic medicine. The industry is responsible for employing more than 25,000 medical professionals, including sales executives, language experts, case managers, etc., across 4,000 Medical Value Travel (MVT) companies.
At present, an average medical tourist spends about $3000 on healthcare services, including medicines. Along with travel, local services, stay, and food expenses, the industry generates about US$5 billion, out of which the MVT players account for 75% of the market share. That said, it raises alarming concerns for the industry leaders as the growth of the sector is compromised due to the current challenges.
The meeting committee (Foundation of Healthcare and Promotion, India) requested the government to ease restrictions on international patients coming to India as soon as the lockdown is lifted while they take adequate measures to ensure each patient is protected, given the situation.
According to Amit Sharma, Founder and CEO of eExpedise Healthcare, “The fiscal damage caused by the virus outbreak and nationwide lockdown is beyond temporary damage and if the situation persists, the Government must take robust measures to bring back the prosperity to one of the ‘champion sectors’ of India. What we need is a dedicated bailout package and support from the Center. Our industry can only survive the pandemic with a stronger financial model to cover the jobs and several opportunities to provide medical care to the tourists in the near future. While telehealth services are in demand across Asian and African countries, it is still in a nascent stage and requires a lot of follow-ups, making it slow”.
“We have been interacting with our clients in Myanmar and Uzbekistan as per the telemedicine guidelines. Since Myanmar Medical Council and the Uzbeki Health Ministry have allowed us to proceed, we have been giving pre-op and post-op services to our patients through video consultations. Telemedicine is an important tool in keeping the patients engaged and help them prepare well in advance before they can actually travel for the treatment,” says Vinay Aggarwal, Founder and MD of Shinon Global.
The committee has also requested the government to start recognizing the players as an independent industry. They have suggested involving the COVID impact council along with FICCI for the support as the industry brings in a large chunk of foreign exchange to India.
Mr. Dalip Chopra, President of Foundation of Healthcare and Promotion, India added “With such a complicated situation in hand, we do want to plea with you for a financial support to us. Our survival depends on financial assistance from the government. MVT Companies needs a bailout package of 300 cr, which is helpful to sustain their businesses for at least 4 months and assist them to meet their expenses for 4 months. The bailout package needs to be in addition to immediate payments of pending Tax refunds including tax refunds for last financial year for all those who have filed their returns.