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Wed, 19 Jun 2019

Northeast Today

Medical Tourism and Northeast

Medical Tourism and Northeast
February 01
15:22 2018

December Edition, Special Story, NET Bureau, Sisir

Medical tourism is a relatively new term for a lot of people reading this, but it’s an age old concept. Medical tourism refers to the activity of people traveling from one place to another to get the medical benefits which are not available at their own location. In its initial stages, it meant travelling from developing to the developed Nations in search of better health care and treatment facilities. However, nowadays, the tables have turned in favor or the developing Nations. People from the first world Nations now travel to third world countries to get equally good treatment at a much cheaper price, or for certain medical procedures which are illegal in their native countries. For example, a lot of tourists come in from Europe and Middle East to India for medical treatments at a lesser cost. While people from India go to Nepal for even cheaper procedures.


India is a pioneer in this new form of tourism and gradually Tamil Nadu has become the hub of medical tourism in India. Not only for foreigners, it is also the main destination for domestic medical tourists, i.e. people from different parts of India. This flow of tourists have created quite a few changes is the fabric of Chennai, the capital of the state of Tamil Nadu.

Till about 10 years back, surviving in that city without the knowledge of their language was a nightmare. Even for the most basics of needs, language barrier was distinctly visible! But now the changes are quite evident, especially in one of the largest private hospitals of India- the Apollo group of Hospitals. Both the doctors and administrative staff are now versed at least in Hindi, if not any other north Indian languages, especially from North or Northeast India. This makes it very easy for the patients to interact and explain the problems to the people in charge like the doctors and the staff. This has made diagnostics much easier than before, and hence affecting the service in a positive sense.


The growth of any form of tourism accelerates the growth of almost all other sectors in the region. Apart from just the hospital staff, people from other walks of life are also getting benefited from this growth of Medical Tourism. Supplementary services like accommodation, transportation, food, etc have also grown at the same pace. The region near the hospital has now become a hub for affordable accommodations with self cooking facilities. Transport services like taxi and auto are also flourishing in this region. Food from various parts of the nation is also available here, so as to suit the palate of people coming from other places and that to at a very affordable rate. Most of the people in the nearby areas, including shopkeepers, hotel staff, eatery owners and even autorickshaw and taxi drivers are fluent in Hindi and some even in Bengali, Assamese, Bhojpuri or Odiya.


Guwahati is the biggest city of Northeast India and a hub of all communication in the region. Not only does it have the largest population of this part of the country, it is also equipped with the medical facilities to support them as well. Until few years back, private nursing homes formed the bulk of the medical service of this part of the world. But these establishments lacked the specialist experience and equipments needed for proper medical treatments. This had made it necessary for the people of northeast India to travel to other parts in search of proper treatment. The popular destinations were Chennai, Vellore, New Delhi and Patna. But now this city has multiple government and private hospitals to serve the needs of the people of the region.

The concept of medical tourism in the region started back in 1987 with the opening of the GNRC (formerly known as Guwahati Neurological Research Center) by Dr. Nomal Chandra Bora. Started as the premiere medical center for the treatment of any neurological problems, this organization has now got three units in Guwahati, each of them including a multi specialty unit in Amingaon.

Few of the noteworthy ones include Marwari Hospitals, IHR, Apollo Hospitals (formerly international hospitals), Narayana Hridulalaya etc.

But the issue was that GNRC was focused on neurosciences alone. To fill in the gaps and cater to the surgical needs of the region, came the Swagat Hospitals. Being a pioneer of surgery, Dr. Subhash Khanna came out with a brand with the first Modular Operation theatre in the region.

“In Swagat Hospitals we believe in excellence and innovation, with proper care of the patient and safety being the core values. We strive to be the first in our endeavours , different from those who are already working and the best of them all”, says Khanna.

Along with the maximum experience in Laproscopic Surgery, this organization now handles several complex procedures like ERCP (which enables the removal of stones from difficult parts of the liver) and therapeutic use of endoscopy in Northeast India. Apart from quality medical treatments, a comfortable stay for the patient is an important consideration in mind when the Swagat super speciality hospital was opened.

Recently, popular Assamese singer Zubeen Garg announced about his plan to set up a hospital named Health City at Guwahati. “At Northeast Health city, we are making the medical procedures of global standards available to people of Assam and northeast India at very affordable rates. By bringing in hi-tech equipments and state of the art infrastructure, people of this region won’t have to go anywhere outside northeast India for treatment. Comfort of the patients is another thing that has been kept in mind while creating this hospital,”said Zubeen.


Although, the number of hospitals has grown manifold in Guwahati in the past few years, a lot of people still prefer to go outside of the region for medical treatments. Lack of ample transportation facilities is one of the reasons of the main issues especially for GNRC North Guwahati and Narayana hospitals. Lack of proper quality food nearby the hospital is another problem. But the main issue lies somewhere else. Even today, most of the people working in this sector treat the patients and their attendants more as an obligation. Accept for a few who normally greet people with a smile, most will actually carry a frowning face. Although the same kinds of equipments are present here, deliveries of reports take a longer time out here due to the lack of proper optimization.

Northeast India has a large number of tribes and sub-tribes, thus leading to a variety of languages. Language barrier seems to become a large issue quite often in this region.

Once these problems are handled, Guwahati will also become another hub of medical tourism in India.

(The author is a travel enthusiast who is currently pursuing Masters in Tourism Management in Guwahati)


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