Very low cost is of course the primary reason why an increasing number of foreign patients are seeking medical care in India. But there are other important factors as well. Take for instance Ronald Hargraves' experience. Ron is from Yorkshire, England and looks like a Hemingway character--a stocky body, white hair swept back forcefully, and a beard that would be a seaman's envy.
"Seven years ago my hip bone started to deteriorate," he said. "My doctor sent me for an x-ray. He told me it wasn't that bad to justify replacement; I could put up with it for sometime. Well, I put up with it for some years and then went back to him and said, 'Look, it's time we did something about this.' He tried to arrange for me to see a surgeon. And couldn't.
"Weeks passed. There was no likelihood of getting an appointment anytime soon. So I went on to the Internet. I found a number of countries offering hip replacement surgery--France, Poland, India among them. I fancied India because of the climate--sunny and pleasant. I investigated further and decided on Manipal Hospital in Bangalore. And from the moment I arrived here things couldn't have been better. Dr. Chakravorti and his team did a number of preliminary tests to determine my fitness for the operation. By 5 p.m. the same day, all the reports were ready. Something impossible in the U.K. The doctor told me that everything was satisfactory. Just one thing though: He didn't recommend hip resurfacing. He said that considering my age and the condition of my bones, the neck of the femur might not be strong enough to carry on after the surgery. He advised me to go in for total hip replacement. I said, Well, let's get on with it. The operation was done successfully and I woke up in a rather nice room, totally free of pain."
For Hargraves, it wasn't just the quality of care, but the personalized bedside manner of both nurses and doctors that made surgery in Bangalore worthwhile. "My wife and I have been here for a fortnight and the doctors visit us at least twice a day," he continued. "Again, this is something unthinkable back home. Any problem or suggestion I have had was dealt with right away. The nursing staff is absolutely wonderful. Nothing is too much of a trouble for them. I ask and I receive. I am now fit and ready to go home. It's been a very rewarding experience."
Linda Rallis, also from the United Kingdom, read about India's medical care in a national newspaper. "For me it was a question of money. I realized that in India I could afford the tummy tuck I needed. The doctors here put me at ease and boosted my self-confidence to undergo the operation. I have received some of the best care ever. In the United Kingdom, the National Health Service is going downhill drastically. Here, quick and efficient care is the hallmark. I am pleased with the end result. It has already started to make a vast difference to my life."
I met Jyotika Patel who was ensconced comfortably in a luxury ward, watching TV. Her home is in Houston, Texas, but since 2004 she has been living in Bangalore as her husband is overseeing operations of an oil company here. "I could have gone back to the U.S. for my back problem. But doctors and friends back in the States recommended I undergo treatment in Bangalore itself. Everything is top class: the treatment, the care, the facilities--and comparable to any top hospital in the U.S. And the bonus is I got them all at one tenth of the cost."
D.K. Venkatesh, the dapper communications manager, took me around the various departments the eleven-storied super specialty Manipal hospital complex. Every single facility I visited gleamed with cleanliness and good cheer. Equipped with six hundred beds, with plans to add on another two hundred soon, the hospital has an overall strength of around two thousand staff, including eight hundred nurses. When I remarked about the large number of nurses, Venkatesh smiled, "Attrition rate in nursing is high. …