Covid casts shadow over medical tourism

By Author  |  Published: 29th Jun 2020  12:12 amUpdated: 29th Jun 2020  5:27 am

Hyderabad: India is among the top 3 preferred destinations in Asia for medical tourism as the quality of care is equal to the western world. And according to some experts the country was emerging to be the top destination before Covid-19 hit the nation. In 2019, India issued 1,68,000 medical visas out of which 50 per cent are medical patients. While Delhi-NCR was the most preferred destination, southern States especially Telangana is slowly emerging to be the next preferred destination for medical tourism.

However, companies working in this space have been facing a lot of issues in the last three to four months with international travel coming to a standstill and are starting at zero revenues. Speaking about the industry and the issues they are facing, eExpedise Healthcare CEO and founder Amit Sharma said, “Since March 15, no patient has come into India for their medical needs and the eventual lockdown has pushed already pending surgeries of the patients in India. For medical tourism companies patient inflow has stopped and the receivables of January are still pending.”

He informed that the patients and their attendees who were already in India before the lockdown got announced are still here and are facing multiple issues with the top issue being cash crunch. He also added that even after gradual unlocking, the medical tourism industry will take another 3-6 months to recover and become stable. Other than facilitating medical care for international tourists, the company also caters to NRI patients for home country treatment.

Health Orioles founder Sonal Phawa also mentioned that the $5 billion industry has become zero today and it is facing a high cash crunch as they are still looking after their daily expenses. Phawa mentioned that the government is also not providing any kind of support to the industry which is a major revenue generator for the country. In terms of future funding as well, Phawa informs that the funding plans have been put on hold by the investors.

Medical tourism companies are in talks with the Centre through Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) so as to get some sort of relief package. “We are looking at a relief package of Rs 300 crore from the government. Although there are only 300-500 organised players in this sector, we have over 5,000 unorganised players as well,” said Sharma.