Bengal eyes medical tourists market

Updated on May 16, 2007 05:07 PM IST
After showcasing the splendours of the Himalayan Queen and Darjeeling, the W Bengal Govt is eyeing for its share of pie in the $ 500 bn global medical tourists market, reports Santanu Saraswati.
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Hindustan Times | BySantanu Saraswati, Kolkata

After showcasing the mystic splendours of the Himalayan Queen, Darjeeling, and the world’s largest mangrove forest, Sunderbans, as the next destination for the prospective eco-tourists, the West Bengal government is eyeing for its share of pie in the $ 500 billion global medical tourists market.

Principal secretary, state tourism and small-scale cottage and handloom department, Dr Gyan Dutt Gautama said: “Showcasing state tourism for the first time at the recently concluded ITB Berlin was an eye-opener for us. We were flooded with queries about the state’s healthcare industry at Berlin. The main reason was that this state already has hundreds of good doctors as well as equally good medical care facilities, but at an affordable price. Our private hospitals still offer much better treatments, but at a price lower than that in Europe and west Asia. We are now planning to explore this huge market.”

According to Gautama, a recent survey conducted by the state government found that Asia’s healthcare facilities are among the best in the world.

Patients from Europe as well as US come to Asian countries to enjoy first-class medical treatments and recuperate in exotic locations. Even patients from Southeast Asian countries are becoming increasingly discerning about their choice of hospitals.

“The Berlin experience tells us that patients from European countries choose a hospital because of its safety, high quality, cost effectiveness and convenience in providing a health services. The survey report says that 51 per cent said a hospital is only as good as its staff, 53 per cent cited the reputation of the doctors as the top reason for choosing a particular hospital and 75 per cent foreign patients value the cost-effective factor. We have all the three benefits in the state. Furthermore, the department would arrange health tours to exotic locations like North Bengal forests and beaches of Digha helping the foreign patients recuperate fast,” the principal secretary added.

The state tourism department has decided to work on this with the heads of the major city hospitals like Bhagirathi Neotia Women and Childcare Centre (BNWCC), Rabindranath Tagore Hospital and Cardiac Research Centre, Peerless Hospital, AMRI, Ruby General Hospital, West Bank Hospital, Cancer Centre Welfare Home and Research Institute, Thakurpukur and few other hospitals.

Director, BNWCC, Madhu Neotia, said: “Right impetus can obviously put Kolkata in the healthcare map of SE Asia as The Destination. The inflow of patients will go on to benefit other allied industries, mainly tourism and hospitality. This calls for greater attention to developing the tourism centers at par with global standards. The hospitals can provide a one-stop facility for the patients to be treated and opt for sight seeing tours as part of a consolidated package. The combined effect of healthcare with hospitality will fetch more foreign exchange thus raising the economic potential of the state.”

Thinking of this the group is also working on a similar project at Rajarhat where Israeli investment will inflow for the first time in the state.

The former director, Ruby General Hospital, Sajal Dutta, however, pointed out that Kolkata with its glorified past and rich cultural history complemented by a diverse cosmopolitan population, could be an attractive spot if the city is marketed as a healthcare hub at various platforms.

The main factors that could be placed forth are the medical expertise of the doctors, most of who are adequately trained abroad, skilled paramedical and general staff and quality patient care services at all levels- all at a very reasonable cost.

“I can conclude that the way Kolkata has resurfaced in the country’s industrial map as a chosen, preferred and happening city, it is high time that the healthcare apex body along with the business confederation start reaching out to potential markets cohesively showcasing our credentials,” said Dutta, who is coming up with another state-of-the-art private hospital at EM Bye-pass by 2008.

The principal secretary informed that this city is presently having patients’ inflow only from countries like Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and sometimes from Europe. “We have to take this growth at least by 100 per cent more than the present by 2008,” Gautama added.

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