Medical tourism has become a watchword in India and now states are also looking to cash in on the booming health sector.
And Punjab, with its excellent infrastructure and medical facilities, has huge potential to attract foreigners as well as non-resident Indian (NRI).
In fact, Punjab occupies a special place in India's growing health care facilities, be it brain surgery, hip replacement and even rejuvenation by traditional Indian medicines.
The availability of Cytotron Therapy, the latest practice in the treatment of cancer, has made Ludhiana's Sibia Medical Centre, the hub for cancer treatment.
Among patients visiting the institution is California based Daniel Pastal, who has brought his son Jack Pastal here for the treatment of brain tumor.
"I am happy and excited to be here. I am really looking forward to have some good results. I think there are lots of advantages here for getting treatments done. Sometimes it is better than USA. We are excited to have some good results from the miraculous technology of India," said Daniel Pastal.
Liberalization and corporate entry in the healthcare sector has made health tourism in India grow manifold.
The medical tourism market in India estimated at 333 million US dollars in 2004 is projected to reach 2.2 billion US dollars by 2012.
The bulk of patients coming to India are from the SAARC region, Middle East, and Africa, and there is potential of getting patients from the West as well.
Routine tourists visiting India prefer to go for normal health check-ups.
Dr. Manuj Wadhwa, Consultant, Fortis Hospital, Chandigarh says, "Whether you want a surgery being done in western world or in India it is going to be the same. But the pricing is far more economical here. If I have to compare a knee replacement surgery in UK or USA in the private sector it will cost around 10- 15 lakhs, but in India it will cost only around 2 lakhs in A-category hospital with the same expertise of doctors and with same infrastructure."
Even NRIs take advantage of the available medical facilities. In addition, they avoid long-waiting lists and the procedure is done quickly in India.
"Medical tourism is becoming popular in India. There are many reasons, for instance, we offer world-class treatment at an economical rate. Then there are certain treatment technologies that are only available in India. Medical tourism can be a multi-million-dollar business and a source of good foreign exchange," said Dr. S S Sibia, Director, Sibia Medical Centre, Ludhiana.
Public health expenditure in the West is going through the roof and governments are finding it difficult to sustain the level of healthcare provided to all citizens. Hence, it is the right time for countries like India to take advantage of this fact and woo health tourists. And Punjab, which is home to a large number of NRIs, is well placed to utilize the opportunity. By Sunil Sharma and Karan Kapoor.