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Gearing up for more medical tourists

K. V. Prasad

COIMBATORE: Mark J. Biggers (50) is the second U.S. citizen to undergo a hip resurfacing surgery here within a month. He is convalescing at Ganga Hospital and is set to leave for home in Arizona. Gregg Dean (59) left for home in Wyoming last week after a resurfacing surgery in another hospital.

A home and land developer, Mr. Biggers is among the growing club of foreigners, especially in the U.S. who surf the Internet for orthopaedic surgeons and land in Coimbatore. Talking to presspersons at the hospital, Mr. Biggers forecast a rise in the inflow of U.S. patients to India.

Affordability

"Health insurance is becoming unaffordable in the U.S. So there will be more of us coming to India," said Mr. Biggers. He got to know of Ganga Hospital on the Internet and verified with an Indian doctor in Arizona. Hospitals in the U.S. asked him to undergo a joint replacement two years. He came to know that resurfacing was a better option, as it did not curb mobility. Mr. Bigger's condition was caused by inadequate supply of blood to the joint called avascular necrosis. "Resurfacing is still not popular in the U.S.," pointed out S. Rajasekaran, President of the World Orthopaedic Concern and Head of the Department of Orthopaedics and Spinal Surgery of the hospital.

"The surgery costs nearly $ 35,000 in the U.S. It costs only up to $ 6,000 here".

Dr. Rajasekaran was confident that high cost of insurance and long waiting period for surgeries in the U.S. and the U.K. would lead to a huge inflow of foreigners. "Internationally, Coimbatore is rated as a city with speciality hospitals - for orthopaedics, gastroenterology and eye care. We are yet to market ourselves. Once that begins, the inflow will be tremendous," he said.

But, logistics would have to improve vastly. Coimbatore must have an international airport with enough connectivity. Now, people have to come through Chennai and Bangalore.

Cleanliness

"Besides, the city must be clean," he said. "When a foreigner sees garbage soon after he lands, he is bound to fear that the operation theatres will look no different," Dr. Rajasekaran warned.

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