For Africans, India is healthcare destination

New Delhi, March 30 (IANS): Musa Amina Babagana, 45, was suffering from acute rheumatoid arthritis for a decade. Prolonged treatment in Nigeria could not give her relief, but miles away in India a private hospital could bring back that smile on her face with one injection.

"We came to know about Indian healthcare system from word of mouth. We then browsed through the Internet to zero in on this place," Alkali Bukar Tayib, a Nigerian who came with his niece Musa Amina in private hospital Max Healthcare, told IANS.

Three-year old Nigerian Oyeinpreye Katheryn Enemugha's mother Ebiakpo Gbefa Enemugha has a similar story. "We are here for follow-up after the successful bone marrow transplant in August 2013. So far she is healthy. She came with sickle cell disease nine months back and was treated with bone marrow transplant for the same." She is being treated at Fortis Healthcare.

Anne, a Kenyan, is also satisfied with her 63-year old aunt Joyce Kariuki's kidney transplant in India. "We liked the professional approach of the doctors over here. My aunt is responding to the treatment very well now. She was undergoing dialysis for the last one year."

Babagana, Enemugha and Anne are among hundreds of people from Africa who are coming to India to avail themselves of the affordable world class medical care in the country.

"More than 50 percent of foreign patients coming to India are from the African region. We work closely with patients from their stay to visa to their medical treatment, we provide all services to get them best treatment available," Edwige Ebakisse, director general, Emilie Health & Communication - a medical travel agency - told IANS.

"We have contracts with the premier medical facilities and service providers in the country," he added.

People from Africa come to Delhi not only for treatment; they also travel to other parts of the country as well. An official from Fortis Healthcare said the hospital chain also gets African patients at its Mumbai and Bangalore facilities, along with all its hospitals in Delhi and National Capital Region. Fortis has 65 facilities across the country. There is the flow of African patients in Ahmedabad in Gujarat and Aurangabad in Maharashtra.

Anil Vinayak, director-sales & marketing at Max Healthcare, said over 1,000 African patients are treated as inpatients at the hospital every year.

"Quality treatment at affordable price is the major reason for them to travel to India for treatment," Vinayak told IANS.

According to a report by the India Brand Equity Foundation, Indian healthcare revenues stood at $45 billion in 2012 and are expected to reach $160 billion by 2017.

The low cost of medical services has resulted in a rise in medical tourism, attracting patients from across the world, the report said, adding the medical tourism industry in India is pegged at $1 billion per annum, growing at around 18 percent and is expected to touch $2 billion by 2015.

"The rise in the inflow of patients from African countries like Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana and Nigeria stands at a robust 32 percent in the last two years," Ashish Bhatia, chief operating officer, Fortis Healthcare, told IANS.

"Fortis caters to 10,000 foreign patients every year who come from countries in West Asia, South Asia, Africa and even Europe and the United States of America," he said.

Healthcare practitioners say India has become quite a household name in Africa. Over a period of time African people have developed a certain amount of confidence on the Indian healthcare system.

"If we look into a broader picture, successful diagnostic and medical centres running abroad, including Nigeria, are majorly operated by Indian doctors; so they are quite familiar with their methods and methodologies of treatments," a Saket City Hospital spokesperson said.

At Saket City Hospital here, approximately 34 African nationals were admitted between June 2013 and February 2014 for various ailments and 256 more in the outpatient department.


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