Low treatment costs attract foreign heart patients to India

New Delhi, Sep 28 (IANS): Low treatment costs and high levels of expertise have made India a leading destination for heart treatment for people from West Asian and African countries, doctors said.

According to doctors, the rates of heart treatment are 1/10th to 1/15th times lower as compared to the United States and Britain.

"India has now become a hub for heart treatment in Southeast Asia and people have been flying in from foreign countries and undergoing treatment for various cardiovascular diseases here," Subhash Chandra, associate director (Interventional Cardiology), Fortis Escorts Heart Institute, told IANS.

People visiting India for treatment are not only from neighbouring countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Nepal but also from far off countries like Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Kazakhstan, Iran, Iraq, Yemen and Oman.

Subhash Chandra said close to 500 patients had undergone treatment in Delhi alone in the last one year.

"Compared to global standards, the rates for any kind of cardiovascular surgery are very minuscule in our country," said Anil Bansal, chief cardiologist at Columbia Asia Hospital.

Coronary angiography (a test that uses dye and special X-rays to show the insides of coronary arteries, the tube that carries blood to heart) costs around Rs.10,000 to Rs. 15,000 in India and around 500 dollars (Rs. 32,000) in the US.

"I underwent an implant here in just Rs.7 lakhs, while I was quoted Rs. 30 lakhs for this in Europe," said Bardhan Sarkar from Bangladesh, who was treated by Bansal.

The most popular treatments availed of by people who come to India are angioplasty, where the blockage in the coronary artery is opened and a thin coil, called a stent, is implanted; open heart surgery where the heart holes are closed and narrow valves opened; and the installation of artificial pacemakers for slower heart rates.

Low treatment costs are definitely one of the major factors attracting people to India, but the expertise and trust in the quality of treatment is another reason for the growth of foreign patients.

"All the latest high quality treatment is available in our country and with high expertise we have been able to establish trust among foreign patients," said Chandan Kedawat, senior consultant cardiovascular disease at Pushpawati Singhania Research Institute (PSRI).

Similarly, even for treatment of congenital heart disease (diseases affecting infants and children and present since birth) several hospitals are attracting a lot of patients from abroad.

"Treatment of heart disease in children costs 10 to 15 times less here than that in any European country," said Shreesha Maiya, pediatric interventional cardiologist at Bangalore's Narayana Hrudayalaya.

In private hospitals, open heart surgery costs Rs.1.5 lakh to Rs.2.25 lakh; for children, open heart surgery costs Rs.1.25 lakh to Rs.2 lakh; valve surgeries cost between Rs.2.5 lakh and Rs.2.75 lakh.

The treatment is even cheaper in government hospitals, with the difference being usually between Rs.75,000 and Rs. 1 lakh.


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