Sharbat Gula, the young, green-eyed Afghan who shot to fame after getting on the cover of National Geographic isn’t the only one seeking Indian shores for medical treatment. Bengaluru is emerging as a global leader in medical tourism, with people from all over the world turning to the city hospitals for top-of-the-line, technology-driven healthcare services.
There's no mistaking those green eyes and their steely gaze. In 1984, National Geographic featured a portrait by journalist Steve Curry, of a young woman named Sharbat Gula, who lived in the Nasir Bagh Refugee camp in Pakistan at the time the photo was taken. Gula will arrive in Bengaluru this week, where she will receive treatment for Hepatitis C from Narayana Hrudalaya. Her visit has been closely followed amid much fanfare, bringing the state’s booming healthcare industry squarely into focus. Gula, who is still awaiting her medical papers, is not the only one seeking Indian shores for top-of-the-line, but still affordable healthcare.
Bengaluru continues to attract patients of all ages from across South Asia and Africa in equal measure. In August 2014, five Indonesian children underwent successful heart surgeries at Jayadeva Institute. Despite consulting with a battery of doctors in Indonesia and in Malaysia, they found nobody willing to risk a surgery so complex. In the end, it was the city’s famed healthcare industry that came to their rescue.
Industry experts believe that Indian healthcare practices being given a leg-up by the IT sector has led to its massive popularity, especially as far as chronic and lifestyle diseases go. Karnataka’s healthcare sector is expected to produce revenues of upto US $30 billion, a massive jump from the current US $5million! Needless to say, Bengaluru will be the industry’s biggest contributor.
"Bengaluru, apart from its brilliant resource network, has an extremely talented group of clinicians from across the world. Being the country’s IT hub, it also facilitates the adoption of source technology, making it easily available for patients,” said Dr Selwyn Colaco, COO, Cytecare Cancer Hospitals, one of the latest additions to the city’s booming healthcare sector.
Hospitals are determined to keep up with the latest trends too, adopting new methods to attract foreign patients. Ishiqua Multani, Vice President, Sagar Hospitals and Clinics, told DC that they have developed a very specific approach, designed especially to cater to international patients. “This includes an International Patients Assistance department, manned by multilingual patient-care providers who make for a unique healthcare experience,” she explained. Dr Swaroop Gopal, Director, Sakra Institute of Neurosciences, Sakra World Hospital, echoes the sentiment, saying, “Bengaluru is emerging as the capital for advanced medical tourism and medical technology.”
And they still aren’t growing fast enough! There are an estimated 600 private hospitals in Karnataka, not taking into account small and medium clinics. “The state requires around 1500 hospital management professionals in the state, but finding qualified personnel is a problem. The scarcity of healthcare professionals will increase in a big way in the coming years as existing hospitals continue to modernize, expand and new ones are set up to meet global standards,” said Dr Biranchi N. Jena, Director of IIHMR Bangalore, adding, “We at IIHMR foresee that over 10,000 hospital management professionals will be needed by 2020 to meet this growing gap.”