The Indian Medical Tourism Industry has urged the Union Government to ease restrictions on overseas patients visiting India as soon as the Lockdown is lifted. The medical tourism the industry is one of the first few businesses to get humongous imact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The $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.
Inflow of foreign patients
India typically receives 1.68 million patients every year for consults surrounding cardiology, orthopedics, IVF, dentistry, transplants and Ayurvedic medicine. What is more, the Indian Medical Tourism Industry is responsible for employing in excess of 25,000 medical professionals, including sales executives, language experts, case managers and more 4,000 Medical Value Travel (MVT) companies.
Medical Tourist Spends
At present, an average medical tourist spends around $3000 on healthcare services, including medicines. Along with travel, local services, stay and food expenses, the industry generates about $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.
Appeal to Government
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.
Amit Sharma, Founder and CEO of eExpedise Healthcare said: “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 tele-health 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.”
Vinay Aggarwal, Founder and MD of Shinon Global, said: “We have been interacting with our clients in Myanmar and Uzbekistan as per the tele-medicine 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,” .
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.
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.