“With better international air link, it will attract more patients”
When Abubakar Ibrahim was advised by doctors in Nigeria to undergo corneal transplantation, he chose a private eye hospital in Madurai for the surgery.
“There are no eye banks in Nigeria. A doctor of Indian origin suggested that we visit Madurai for treatment. The treatment in the city is excellent and the cost low,” says his uncle Yahaya Haruna. With foreigners and patients from other States preferring the city for its cost-effective treatment and affable doctors, Madurai is slowly emerging as a centre for medical tourism.
Anish George and his wife were in the city recently to get treatment for their school-going son Alan George at Aravind Eye Hospital. “We were not satisfied with the treatment in Kerala. A neighbour advised us to visit Madurai. We’ve visited the city four times already,” says Mr. George.
The city’s rich heritage sites are an added advantage for the patients and those who accompany them. “We are planning to tour the city before returning to Nigeria. We have heard so much about Madurai,” Mr. Haruna says. Mr. George says he could not explore the city during his previous visits but plans to go around the city during his next trip.
Major health providers in the city indicate that Madurai will emerge as a medical centre with better air connectivity to destinations abroad. Pugalagiri Vadamalayan of Vadamalayan Hospital says around 150 patients from foreign countries visit his hospital every year. “Coimbatore is faring much better than Madurai because of better air connectivity. Madurai will have an edge compared to other cities because it has several heritage sites to visit,” he says.
S. Gurushankar of Meenakshi Mission Hospital and Research Centre says medical care in Madurai is cheaper when compared to Chennai and other cities. “The city’s potential has not been tapped owing to poor international air connectivity. But it is only a matter of years before Madurai will emerge as a medical centre,” he says.
The health providers say despite the poor air link to Madurai, the number of international patients visiting the city is on the rise. According to Rohini Sridhar, Chief Operating Officer of Apollo Hospitals, the number of international patients visiting the hospital has been witnessing an increase of 20 per cent every year. “We provide medical care for around 400 to 500 people from European countries, Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka and the Middle East in a year,” she says.
Hema Sathish of Devadoss Hospital says the number of patients visiting Madurai hospitals will increase if the air connectivity is improved. “But we had patients from foreign counties visiting us even when Madurai was not served by international flights,” she says.