It is a trend that looks to be thriving in the region
As a second step to attract well-to-do persons to the advanced medical facilities of Southeast Asian nations, medical tourism is thriving.
The agencies concerned complete all arrangements including visas, accommodation, and the invariable touristy visit in packages, leaving beneficiaries to enjoy the rest.
It doesn’t come cheap but that’s balanced out with the reduced hassle of having to find one’s way around otherwise.
According to Ernst and Young, the numbers are on the rise, especially where India is concerned.
While the tourism aspect is not as strong an attractor there, patients with non-communicable diseases find it more convenient to avail the facilities. On an average, the Indian High Commission processes around 3000 visas per day with special walk-in facilities for those seeking medical treatment.
It follows naturally that the more Bangali-favoured Kolkata, with its shopping and other entertainment facilities, will score high on the “must do” list. Physicians are more than willing to scribble out prescriptions for visitation, thereby smoothening the medical visa process. There’s also the unrestricted monthly visits by these physicians under the umbrella of so-called clinics for consultation, and subsequently further treatment in India.
Kolkata, Delhi, and Chennai are favoured destinations for patients. They, in turn, are fed up with the lack of process and care at local hospitals and clinics, not to mention the rip-off that most go through.
The Southeast Asian facilities with far better quality control are even more attractive but just as in India, there have been frequent complaints of wrong diagnosis and unnecessary treatment that is as much a feature of Bangladesh.
That is a shame, given the facilities extended by the government for setting up hospitals and such.
Too often, through social media and word of mouth, larger hospitals are accused of maltreatment and unnecessary hospitalization that rake up stupendous bills.
It gets worse when bodies of the deceased aren’t released until the sizeable bills are settled, and the infamous life-support systems are switched off. Barring the sanitary cleanliness, the country’s medical colleges do provide fairly decent treatment.
It’s just that expensive equipment is not looked after properly and physicians prefer spending more time in their private chambers than the hospitals themselves.
The larger private concerns have found a way out by ensuring the outpatients’ department is housed under the same roof with a prohibition on private practice by physicians.
In the end, it boils down to the same, with OPD’s functioning as the conduit for tests and hospitalization in a bizarre opposite of sorts.
Medical tourism isn’t wrong in a world of commercialization but those seeking treatment for more complicated diseases prefer the peace of mind. Perhaps something similar could be thought up for the countless milieu that makes, what is for them, the arduous travel to Dhaka for better treatment.
Better still is a crash project under which the common non-communicable diseases, including medication, is made readily available in the main district towns.
Mahmudur Rahman is a writer, columnist, broadcaster, and communications specialist.