Oct 8 - A weak rupee coupled with a range of quality healthcare options focussed on providing hassle-free healing for foreign patients is driving a boom in India's medical tourism industry. Sonia Legg reports
These Nigerian twins were born conjoined. They were recently separated by doctors in India - their survival the perfect advert for a booming medical tourism industry. A weak rupee is giving it a further boost. One new study by a leading industry body says a private procedure that used to cost a foreigner $10,000 can now be bought for just $7,000. (SOUNDBITE) (English) GENERAL SECRETARY OF ASSOCIATED CHAMBER OF COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY OF INDIA (ASSOCHAM), D.S RAWAT, SAYING: "The patients who are coming in large number particularly from the Middle East and ASEAN countries, they are paying nearly 30 to 35 percent less because the rupee has been weakened over a period of time." The report also suggests there's been a 40% increase in the number of medical tourists. Dr Arun Prasad is a surgeon at New Delhi's Apollo Hospital. He says 50 of the 600 patients he's operated on in the past year have come from abroad, particular the Middle East. (SOUNDBITE) (English) SENIOR CONSULTANT AND SURGEON OF BARIATIC SURGERY AT THE APOLLO HOSPITAL, DOCTOR ARUN PRASAD, SAYING: "The bottom line always is the cost. So when you are talking about comparing the cost of coming to India versus going to the States it is much cheaper here." Africans too are increasingly seeking treatment in India, particularly Nigerians. (SOUNDBITE) (English) A NIGERIAN PATIENT, WOLE-KAREEM OLUYEMISI ABIODUM, SAYING: "I think the problem is mismanagement. We really need to improve, we are far behind, when it comes to medical." Private health care facilities around the country have improved significantly in recent years. Many foreign doctors now come to train and attend conferences. The hospitals themselves are also seeing an opportunity, working with insurance companies and even tour operators. While the patient is treated his or her family goes off sightseeing Shivinder Mohan Singh is Executive Vice Chair of Fortis Healthcare. (SOUNDBITE) (English) EXECUTIVE VICE CHAIRMAN OF A LEADING HOSPITAL CHAIN FORTIS HEALTHCARE LTD, SHIVINDER MOHAN SINGH, SAYING: "You have to just ensure the fact that you take care of their specific needs and you have those things available, whether it is translators, or just a separate place for them to get their you know, pre and post discharge activities done or have tie-ups with their insurance companies or so on" Medical tourism is thought to be worth around $1.2 billion to India. But the same study that reported the rise in patient numbers also predicts that figure could be nearer $120 billion by 2015.