Team to market India as medical tourism destination in Britain

Bangalore, July 18 (IANS) Representatives of Indian healthcare sector will be in Britain next week to market India as an efficient and cost-effective medical tourism destination.

They will also look for investment opportunities in Britain and showcase similar options in this country, said Madan Gaekwad, executive vice president of the Sagar Hospitals, a leading private healthcare group in Karnataka.

‘About 10 groups (in the healthcare and medical equipment sector) will be visiting Britain from July 19 to July 23 on an invitation from the UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) to share views and look at opportunities for investment in each other’s country,’ Gaekwad told IANS.

Sagar Hospitals, part of the Rs.350-crore Sagar Group with interest in healthcare, pharma, education and automobile distribution business, is part of the visiting groups.

‘We will explore opportunities for either strategic partnership in the UK for direct investment or to tap the medical tourism potential with our low-cost patient care,’ Gaekwad said.

Britain is a huge market for the Indian healthcare sector which offers treatment at one-fourth of the cost in that country, he said.

‘Though Britain’s National Healthcare Service (NHS) is facing severe shortage of doctors and long wait for patients needing vital surgery, there are some restrictions in the UK now on patients seeking overseas treatment, like the air travel distance should be within four hours,’ Gaekwad said.

Issues like this and benefits for Britain in tapping the healthcare potential in India will be discussed during the visit, he said.

On medical tourism scene in India, Gakewad said ‘it has taken off but not on a large scale’, compared to countries like Thailand.

‘But potential is huge as there is a lot of faith in Indian doctors. As far as Bangalore is concerned, a little bit of push from health and tourism departments to market the city as a healthcare destination can put the city on a high pedestal, inspite of infrastructure problems,’ he said.

Medical tourism need not be confined to physical presence of patients, Gaekwad said, adding that in areas like tele-radiology, tele-pathology and lab diagnostics a lot of work is being done in India for overseas clients.

Gaekwad said the Sagar group has drawn up plans to tap medical tourism in a big way and also use its expertise to set up healthcare centres overseas. Its first overseas facility will be a polyclinic and day-care surgical centre in Dubai next month, to be followed by a polyclinic in Muscat in three months, he said.

At home it will soon set up a 1,000-bed super-specialty hospital near the Bangalore International Airport at Devanahalli, about 35 km from city centre, at a cost of Rs.300 crore to cater mainly to medical tourists. At present, it has 665-bed facility at two locations in south of Bangalore.

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