Mumbai: Six major airports in the country will soon have facilitation centres for international patients coming in for treatment. Envisioned by the Ministry of Tourism, the first centre will come up at the Mumbai airport in October. The idea is to have a help desk for patients and their relatives before they are approached by touts.
The Ministry has sought help from the Indian Medical Association (IMA) and the Consortium of Accredited Healthcare Organisations. “Mumbai will be a pilot project. Depending on how it works out, centres will come up in Delhi, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad,” said Dr. K.K. Aggarwal, president of the IMA and member of the ministry’s medical tourism board.
“The centres will have trained personnel who will guide patients and their relatives if they have already short-listed a hospital and will provide information about accredited hospitals in case they are yet to short-list one,” said Dr. Aggarwal.
Medical tourism is used to describe the practice of travelling to another country for healthcare services. In India, a large number of patients come from the middle east, Africa and Bangladesh. The medical tourism board believes that India holds advantage as most doctors and surgeons at Indian hospitals are trained or have worked in the U.S., Europe, or other developed nations; most doctors and nurses are fluent in English; state-of-art medical and diagnostic equipment are available at many hospitals; Indian nursing staff are considered very good; and even the most budget-conscious travellers can afford first-rate services and luxury amenities.
“But often, when some of these patients land up undecided, they are misguided by touts. Through the centre, we can eventually eliminate the touts and avoid these patients from landing up at some quack,” said IMA member Dr. Jayesh Lele, adding that the centre will come up right after the customs clearance.
While the government will allot the space, salaries of the staff will be pooled in by the accredited hospitals. The centres will run round the clock and throughout the year. The ministry also plans to have a telephone link at the counter to the Incredible India info helpline for assistance while dealing with persons in need of language services. “Many patients land in the country and then go on visiting two to three hospitals before finalising one. For such patients, the centre will act as a bridge of information. For others who short-list the hospitals from their home country, we will be able to ease out things by providing information about their arrival to the centre and offer guidance on travel, cell phone connections,” said Dr. Parag Rindani, centre head of Wockhardt Hospital, Mumbai Central.
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