The City of Pearls, one of the emerging hubs of medical tourism, is likely to be impacted in the short term by demonetisation of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 currency notes.
“We have alerted our international patients scheduled for treatment over the next few days about the currency crisis in the country,” said Radhey Mohan of Apollo Hospitals where most of the international patients are from West Asia and Africa. “While patients from West Asia use card for transactions, patients from Africa exchange currency to pay for treatment,” he informed.
“Those availing treatment are being offered end-to-end cashless transaction. We have asked people accompanying patients to have food in the hospital canteen,” said Mr. Mohan. Nearly 1.5 lakh international patients have availed treatment with the Apollo chain of hospitals throughout the country in the last financial year.
While the international patients who are undergoing in-house treatment are not facing hurdles, those who have come for a short duration for treatment are having a tough time as they have to take care of their lodging and boarding as well as commuting in the city.
“The hotel is a problem. Dinner and exchange is a problem,” says Nasser, an Omani national undergoing treatment at L.V. Prasad Eye Institute.
“There are many patients from my country who are undergoing treatment. They are really caught in a fix as they don’t have access to ATMs and banks. While we students can stand in the queue and withdraw money, they have become dependent on people like us,” says Abdullah, a Kenyan student.
According to hospital officials, about 80 international patients come for treatment to the city every day. “We are in touch with the consulate officials of various countries and have alerted them about the demonetisation. We have asked them to send patients who need emergency treatment. The patients whose treatment can be delayed, we are asking them to delay the visit by a month,” said an official of L.V. Prasad Eye Institute, where international patients come for treatment, but stay in hotels and guest houses.
“Most of our international patients come for a very short duration of between five and seven days so they may have trouble as they prefer to choose their own lodging and boarding facility,” said the official.
According to Ministry of Tourism data, between 5 and 10 per cent of medical tourists avail the facility in the city.