KOLKATA, India – Kazi Mohammed Hasima, a 44-year-old businessman from Bangladesh’s Chittagong district, first visited Kolkata in 2005 for a health check-up. A regular medical tourist since then, he is one of the many Bangladeshis crossing the border for better healthcare – a booming business in Kolkata.
Lack of quality healthcare in Bangladesh, geographical proximity to West Bengal and a common culture have made Kolkata a hub for medical tourists. To add to its advantage, services in the city are 30 per cent cheaper than in Vellore or Chennai.
While the total quantum of visitors from the neighbouring country could not be ascertained, unofficial estimates suggest city-based hospitals treat approximately 1,000 Bangladeshi patients a month.
People from the country visit for services ranging from regular health check-ups to super speciality surgeries, contributing nearly 15-20 per cent of the total patient traffic at private hospitals.
Almost all private hospitals have set up “international wings.” The aim is to tap patients through referral clinics in Bangladesh. Almost all have tie-ups with Bangladeshi doctors and healthcare facilities. A separate customer care facility is also available to overseas visitors at all major private hospitals in Kolkata.
Medica Superspeciality, located on the eastern fringes of the city, has tied up with several Bangladeshi doctors and clinics for referral cases.
Two-year-old Medica, that treats 200 Bangladeshi patients a month, has seen a 50 per cent growth during the last one year. Peerless Hospitals, also located in the eastern fringes of the city, has seen a 15 per cent surge in patients on an annual basis, its spokesperson said.
“Our hospital being a super specialty cardiac care centre gets approximately 10 per cent of its total patients (around 30 patients) a year,” Suyash Borar, chief operating officer B.M. Birla Heart research Centre, said.
At least three hospitals, Medica being one of them, are adding beds or building new facilities to cater to Bangladeshi patients
B.M. Birla Heart Research will add 50 beds to its existing capacity of 160 beds while Peerless Hospital expects to treat around 800 patients from Bangladesh this year. It treated 600 patients in 2011.