Covid woes dent health tourism in South India; hospital revenues take a...

Covid woes dent health tourism in South India; hospital revenues take a hit


Chennai | Bengaluru: Hospitals in Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Kochi that counted on overseas visitors who combined treatment with tourism in India have taken a big hit in revenues from this segment.

Chennai, for one, attracted a lion’s share of overseas visitors being home to a number of super-speciality hospitals. “Earlier, Chennai used to have about 80% of international medical travel. This has dropped to 10% which includes patients who travel with special travel permits for emergency medical care,” MGM Healthcare chief executive Harish Manian said.

6 oct

The impact of international business on his hospital this year would be Rs. 10-15 crore. The recovery, he added, hinges on the government easing international travel curbs. Once borders open, surge in patient arrivals probably would compensate for the tough times.

Bangladesh is said to make up 60% of medical tourism arrivals, while Sri Lanka, the Middle East and Maldives are other big contributors.

Rainbow Children’s Hospital general manager R Rajmohan warns Tamil Nadu will have to first bring down Covid-19 infection numbers before hoping for a turnaround in the medical tourism scenario.

Overseas patients, he said, account for one-tenth of his hospital’s revenues, and he would not expect an uptick in the next 3-4 months. Industry experts say hospitals in the south are not even getting interstate patients, leave alone overseas visitors. Aster DM Healthcare, which has a wide network of hospitals across Kerala, and in Bengaluru and Hyderabad, had been a hub for medical value tourism, said Dr Azad Moopen, its Dubai-based founder.

Aster has a big presence in the Gulf region, and its South Indian hospitals draw patients coming from the Middle East, Africa and South Asia for tertiary and quaternary value-based healthcare. “We have seen a sharp drop in our business here,” Moopen said.

The April-June quarter, he said, had been a tough quarter for his healthcare group’s India business which contributed to about a fifth of its global revenues. Many patients are visiting hospitals only for emergencies, he said.

The silver lining, according to Moopen, is there has been a month-onmonth increase in OPD footfalls and inpatient numbers with many Covid patients preferring hospitalisation. Teleconsultation, meanwhile, has emerged as a popular choice for people and Aster has launched its own econsult platform.

The picture is equally sedate in the wellness and lifestyle-correction sector.

Jindal Naturecure Institute, a place Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has visited in the past, and is preferred by many people from foreign shores, has taken to webinars to help patients who are unable to come.

“We conduct virtual camps to promote good health practices. Our experts also take queries from people through webinars,” the institute’s senior chairman KR Raghunath said. “We look forward to reopening the institute from November 16 and start treating patients soon.”

Raghunath pegged the size of the medical tourism sector at Rs. 49,000 crore, and is confident it will pick up soon in view of the increase in awareness about preventive care.

“Indigenous systems of treatment, like naturopathy and yoga, have a lot to offer in this regard as they focus on adopting lifestyle strategies to promote the body’s self-healing powers.”

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