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Last Updated: Monday, 29 September, 2003, 14:37 GMT 15:37 UK
India's 'five-star' hospitals

By Sanjoy Majumder
BBC News Online, Delhi

More and more international patients are travelling to India to seek quality health care at a fraction of the cost back home.

Health care in India is a growth industry
Health care in India is becoming a growth industry

Typically they are admitted at one of the many upscale private hospitals that have sprung up across the country.

With state-of-the-art equipment and medical practitioners trained abroad, these "five-star" hospitals now attract a new breed of international traveller - the "medical tourist".

Long queues of patients from neighbouring Bangladesh, Pakistan, Africa and the Middle East can be seen in many of these hospitals.

But now patients are travelling from even further, from the UK, Europe and North America.

Experts believe India is poised to become a major health care destination offering quality medical service at low cost.

"Our medical facilities are on par with any centre in the world," Roy Fernandes, Marketing Vice-President of India's Apollo Hospitals, told BBC News Online.

Growth potential

"Our surgeons and cardiologists are trained in the UK and the US and they deliver results that are equal to those achieved by their counterparts across the world."

But what is bringing the patients are the comparatively low costs.

Open-heart surgery in the UK can cost more than $20,000 and double that in the United States.

James Campbell, from Aberdeenshire
James Campbell will fly to India for knee surgery

In India, leading hospitals can perform that surgery for less than $5,000.

And the costs can also be covered by most major insurance policies.

The other attraction is that there is no waiting period for major medical procedures unlike in the UK where, under the National Health Service, patients can wait for months.

Both the Indian Government and industry have been quick to recognise the enormous potential of earning a lucrative share of the global health care industry, estimated to be worth hundreds of billions of dollars.

In the last budget announced in February, the government announced major tax benefits and incentives to attract investment in health care.

Destination health

The government estimates the Indian health care industry is valued at $17bn, some 4% of India's GDP and growing at over 10% every year.

It is expected to reach 2,700bn rupees ($60bn) by 2012.

Some 70% of India's health care services are privately managed, helping take care of the spill over from poorly maintained and ill-equipped government facilities.

Earlier this month, a team of Indian industrialists travelled to Britain to showcase Indian health care.

The Healthcare Mission highlighted India's medical facilities and skills especially in the areas of Cardiology, Oncology, Minimal Invasive Surgery and Joint Replacement.

Travel agents and tour operators have also taken up the cause and have begun promoting India as a major health care destination.

India already attracted visitors seeking alternative healing practices such as ayurveda and reiki.

But now, conventional treatment centres are seeing their fair share of international patients.

"Over the next 10 years, India will become a major destination for healthcare," says Roy Fernandes.

"We have been able to prove we are on par with the West."

India lures Briton for knee surgery
29 Sep 03  |  Scotland

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