As the rupee continues to plummet, more and more patients from abroad are coming to India to undergo complex surgeries at affordable rates. Private hospitals in Chennai say they have had a 10% to 15% increase in medical tourism in the past one year. While part of it could be attributed to the falling rupee, the bigger picture spells strain on the hospitals’ pockets as they procure most of their medical supplies from abroad.
Chandra Sekhar, executive director of Global Health City Hospitals said his hospital has seen an overall increase in medical tourists in the past few months, but only a small portion of them could be because of the depreciation of the Indian rupee. "Most of the patients pay us in dollars so it would take a while for us to analyse the trend. Though there would be momentary benefit as there is a marginal increase in international patients, the volatility of the rupee has a detrimental effect on hospitals. This is mainly because we import most of our hospital supplies from abroad and the dismal situation of the rupee means we have to stretch our budgets," he said.
Managers of other private hospitals echoed the sentiment. "We procure implants, drugs, medical equipment and several other supplies from other countries. The suppliers have been asking for a price revision and supplies are slowing down," said Sekhar. He added that if the supply costs go up, surgeries would have to cost more. "Patients would pay if it is merely an increase of a few thousands of rupees, but more than that would be difficult for everyone. In order to sustain ourselves we have to keep the patients in mind and tackle the situation by bearing the rise in supply costs," he said.
Apollo Hospitals has also been witnessing an encouraging inflow of patients from the Gulf after Ramadan. Apollo Hospitals CEO B Prem Kumar said the hospital got more than 65,000 international patients last year. "The expected growth in the next 10–20 years is likely to grow at 30%." Most patients who come to city hospitals for treatment are from West Asia, Africa and Saarc countries. The most common procedures that foreign patients seek are cardiac surgery, neurosurgery, spine and joint surgery, oncology and organ transplant. "With the rupee depreciating 20%, medical tourists are at an advantage as this means an overall lower cost of treatment in comparison with their currencies," he said.
Times of India
23 August 2013, Chennai.