Head of cardiology at a corporate hospital in Chennai told me once (this was years ago) that they needed to do 12 surgeries a day to be able to maintain three operation theatres, meet loan repayment schedule on equipment, and fulfill dividend expectations of shareholders. He was not merely a reputed cardiac surgeon, but also a board member – ‘I’ve to take care of the shareholders’ interests’.
Specialty hospitals have emerged good business, a sure-fire foreign exchange earners and have made India a destination for healthcare outsourcing. We hear hospital management circles talking of ‘medical tourism’, a term I despise. Overseas visitors in need of surgery and their concerned companions do not exactly fit the definition of ‘tourists’, a word I would normally associate with vacationers and pleasure-seekers. Travelling to get a heart bypass can’t be much fun. Most of those making the trip to India are folks who can’t afford it in their own country. Heart surgery that costs $200,000 in the US can be done in India for $10,000.
Hip resurfacing costs in Mumbai $6,000 while the same surgical procedure done in the US would set you back by $25,000. If you don’t have insurance cover in the US, and can’t raise that kind of money, even the Lord would be reluctant to help. I once met a lady at a Phoenix soup kitchen whose family became homeless, because her husband got pneumonia. His insurance cover had lapsed. And they had to sell their house to pay hospital bills. It was a matter of $11,000.
Thousands of US patients are said to be opting India as healthcare alternative, to take advantage of the cut-rate heart surgery, gastric bypass and hysterectomies. Economics professor Milica Bookman, of Philadelphia St. Joseph’s University, is quoted in People magazine as saying, “from what we’re hearing, the quality of care is certainly as good as what you find in an American hospital”. The professor is writing a book on medical outsourcing.
A school bus driver in Lakeville, Minn., who had hip resurfacing done in Mumbai has set up a website to share her experience and offer guidance to those looking at healthcare options in India.