Medi-cities may be future tourism destination in India

Friday, 26 March 2004, 08:00 Hrs
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NEW DELHI: A chain of specialised hospitals, health spas, good civic facilities, housing and leisure facilities - the milieu is just ripe to attract foreign residents seeking medical treatment in India.

"We are formulating plans to set up 'medi-cities' on the lines of IT cities with eight to 10 speciality hospitals, helicopter service, paramedical staff, health spas - in fact a full township that will support medical tourism and ancillary services," said Vinod Tenguria, managing director of Mumbai-based Vedic India.

Specialising in medical tourism with a focus on non-resident Indians (NRIs) and Asians, Vedic India is firming up plans to set up medical townships across different states.

Partnering it in the venture is Britain-based international property consultants Chesterton Meghraj.

"Ahmedabad in Gujarat is one of the options we are exploring. The proposal is in advanced stages of discussions. We are also looking at options in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Uttranchhal, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh for setting up medi-cities," Tenguria told IANS.

Some of these states are already partnering Vedic India in evolving tourism packages.

For the medical city planned near Ahmedabad, Tenguria said a 500-acre township is proposed with services to support medical tourism.

"We envisage an investment of 15 billion in the first phase," said Manoj Kashyap, associate director of Chesterton Meghraj.

"The proposal is to have a network of medi-cities. We are exploring various options. It will take six to eight months to firm up plans," said Kashyap.

Though dedicated health facilities for recuperation are coming up in India to cater to the growing demand from foreign tourists, Tenguria said their plan for medi-cities would be the first of its kind.

"We are planning in terms of having around 1,500 to 2,000 beds and infrastructure spread across various hospitals. The facilities have to be close to international airports and have the best civic infrastructure just like in IT cities," said Tenguria.

An alumni of the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) in Ahmedabad, Tenguria is partnered with five other IIM graduates settled in the US, Britain, Singapore and Australia in his venture set up over four years back.

In the past year since starting commercial operations, Vedic India has provided medical packages to 93 patients from the US, the European Union and some Asian countries like Bangladesh.

Over the last four years, Tenguria has visited around 40 countries to establish links with NRI associations and patient associations dealing with various kinds of ailments like renal or cardiac problems.

"We provide patients pick up from their home right up to the hospitals in India for surgery and further treatment, provide accommodation for their relatives and later arrange for recuperation on doctors advice. We also provide post operative care and referral through telemedicine," said Tenguria.

The company is currently in the final stages of confirmation of about 20,000 more patients out of a patient base of 200,000 undergoing treatment in their respective countries and facing surgery waiting list of over one year.

The long wait for surgery and the low cost of operations and post-operative care in India are some of the reasons why Vedic India, which recently parted ways with SITA Care, the medical tourism wing of SITA Travels, is banking on to grow manifold in the years to come.

"As soon as a NRI takes our membership, we offer their relatives back home in India 25 percent discount in treatment in the five major hospital groups, with which we have tied up," said Tenguria.

According to him though India has the desired medical expertise there is still much lacking in terms of infrastructure to help the country take advantage of the high calibre treatment at one-fourth the cost.

"People overseas are still sceptical about India, though successful treatment of our patients helps to spread the word around," he said.

Looking primarily at upmarket NRIs and Asians, Vedic India is also looking further afield to the needs of pensioners in Scandinavian countries who are unable to afford medical treatment in their own country.

For them, Vedic India is looking at providing paying guest and service apartment packages that will not only take care of their medical needs but also a pleasant stay.

Source: IANS
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