With people from across the country and abroad preferring to get treated in city hospitals, Chennai is increasingly becoming a hub of medical tourism.

Nigeria, Kenya, Burundi, Congo, Bangladesh, Oman and Iraq are some of the countries from which patients fly down to Chennai for medical attention around this time of the year. Besides treatment, patients on the road to recovery and caretakers also get to go on sightseeing tours.

Most leading hospitals, which receive a steady stream of patients from other States and abroad every day, have separate wings for international patients. Sri Ramachandra Medical Centre, for instance, receives up to 100 overseas patients a month. However, there are no consolidated statistics about the number of patients that the city receives.

“We get 15 to 20 patients a month from around the world,” says T.I.Joshua, Manager-International Business of Fortis Malar. “Treatment for cardiac, orthopaedic, and neurosurgery are the main reasons for people choosing this hospital. Oncology is catching up,” he says.

Mr.Joshua believes that many countries have fully-equipped hospitals but lack specialists and experienced nurses. This hospital also provides rental accommodation for patient's relatives. “The service apartments in Adyar charge between Rs.2,500 and Rs.4,000 a night. We have recently started service apartments for Rs.1,500 per night,” he adds.

Several private hospitals have tied up with governments of other countries. Representatives of Madras Medical Mission say that every month, 14 persons from abroad, mainly from East African nations, come to the hospital as medical tourists. The hospital is preferred by international patients for kidney transplants and cardiac surgeries.

A. Aloyse, a professor from Tanzania, has been in the city for a month now with his relatives to undergo kidney transplant.

“My government sent me here for treatment and my expenses are covered by it. The hospital provides food and accommodation for my son and brother-in-law, who is the donor. The quality of treatment is good,” he says.

Besides overseas patients, a sizeable number of patients come from within India. While some of the patients like Om Mahajan from Nagpur come to the city on doctors' advice, several others choose Chennai for quality healthcare.

Ram Swarup Rai of Kanpur underwent a cataract operation at Sankara Nethralaya, which receives nearly 500 overseas patients a month.

“I cannot expect such facilities in my city. All doctors here speak Hindi. I have found a lodge for Rs.190 per night,” he says. Patients from other parts of the country, however, cannot afford rental accommodation offered by city hospitals.

Surendra Prasad from Aurangabad says, “We managed to stay in the hospital for a day. As my wife Meena Devi's surgery is over, we will have to find if anyone will let us stay with them for a few nights.”

The increase in overseas patients' visit to the city has paved way for companies to facilitate medical tourism. Jose Manavalan, Chief Executive Officer of one such organisation that operates in T.Nagar, says international patients choose Chennai for quality and cost-effective healthcare. “We have tied up with many hospitals. We take care of the selection of hospitals treatment, travel, accommodation and follow-up camps in their country. We also organise tours for them.”

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