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TN becomes India’s MVT hub; 15L patients visit state for treatment

In 1664, when the British set up a hospital at Fort St. George in erstwhile Madras to treat sick soldiers of the East India Company, there weren’t any such facilities available anywhere else in the country. It was the first modern hospital to come up in India. Today, the hospital, which relocated out of the fort, has turned into the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital and has over 2,700 beds with multiple speciality care wings, treating hundreds of patients daily.

With a strong lineage in healthcare, Tamil Nadu has always been an important centre for medical care and has been attracting a large number of international and domestic health tourists. With healthcare indices to boast of, as it ranks at the top in the country in terms of number of children immunised and low mortality rates, the government has been taking initiatives over the years to integrate medical care and tourism. Healthcare now has become one of the fastest growing tourism segments in both mainstream medical services and wellness tourism.

What sets Tamil Nadu apart from other states is the medical infrastructure and thousands of specialised medical practitioners working in thousands of hospitals across the state.

According to government data, the state has over 12,500 hospital beds, around 10 lakh registered doctors, 48 government-run medical colleges with hospitals; and hundreds of private specialty and multi-specialty hospitals. Besides, there are around 1,500 Indian system hospitals and hundreds of ayurvedic, siddha and unani resources. Backing these are 84 pharma colleges and around 400 pharma-manufacturing companies in the state.

As medical costs are competitive and meet global standards, patients prefer getting treatment here. “In Bangladesh, PET scans would cost Rs 50,000 to Rs 60,000, but at SIMS it would cost them only Rs 20,000. These people would not have medical insurance, so they have to spend from their pockets. Therefore they come in search of affordability,” said Shumaila Tarannum, manager of SRM Institutes for Medical Science (SIMS) Care Connect in Chennai.

Tarannum added that every month around 25-35 international patients visit SIMS and the majority come from Bangladesh for gastroenterology issues. “We get patients from African countries, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Bahrain.”

Over 15 lakh patients visit Tamil Nadu annually for medical diagnosis and treatment, according to the state tourism department. As the state has established itself as a leader in medical tourism, the state department of tourism along with hospitals have established a Medical Tourism Information Centre at the Tamil Nadu Tourism Complex and travel desks in Chennai and Madurai. A core committee of medical experts and the Directorate of Medical Education oversee the system.

The department of tourism is also planning to launch a medical and wellness tourism scheme to develop medical and wellness tourism in Tamil Nadu, in line with the National Strategy and Roadmap drafted by the Ministry of Tourism. Efforts will be taken to promote Tamil Nadu under the ‘Heal in India’ brand while setting up enabling regulatory and institutional frameworks for medical and wellness tourism.

“Apollo hospitals receive international patients from SAARC countries, West Asia, Mauritius and others. India is known for good experienced doctors. There are experts here. Patients prefer coming here for cost effective treatment, high end technologies and good medical services. Most of the patients come to Apollo for cancer treatment, joint replacement and cardiac surgeries,” said Dr R K Venkatachalam, Director of Medical Services, Apollo Hospitals.

“SRMC gets patients from countries including Bangladesh, Malaysia, Nepal, Nigeria, Sri Lanka and Oman. Annually, 500-550 patients come to SRMC for treatments. Doctors here also clearly chart out medical costs for them so that they can come prepared,” said Dr Sudagar Singh, medical director at Sri Ramachandra Medical Centre.

What adds to the experience for patients is the hospitality, culture and culinary experience and tourist spots the state has to offer. “In Chennai people are also warm and nice. They are welcoming. We frequently organise small trips to places like Tirupathi, Puducherry and Coimbatore,” said Dr Rakesh Jalali, medical director and senior consultant, neuro oncology, Apollo Proton Cancer Centre, Chennai.

“We provide help, if needed, in obtaining visa and also receive them from the airport. We also have tie ups with a number of hotels, apartments and accommodations where we have discounted rates,” he added. New Indian Express

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