Some medical aid societies are opting to have their members undergo medical procedures in India instead of having them done in Zimbabwe because of the high costs associated with local health care.
Some of the medical aid societies have even signed contracts with Indians who link them with service providers.
On the other hand, the Indian service providers have also identified their agencies that search for patients in Zimbabwe and refer them to Indian service providers on a commission.
Some societies are sending up to 20 patients a month, some requiring procedures that are locally available.
Investigations by The Herald have revealed that Indian service providers were charging between $6 000 and $8 000 for knee replacements. The same service costs $13 000 in Zimbabwe.
Appendectomy surgery costs at least $800 but in Zimbabwe it costs almost twice the amount. Cataract surgeries are pegged at $800 in India and $1 775 in Zimbabwe.
Other examples include treatment of different types of cancer whose costs average about $10 000 in India as opposed to about $25 000 in Zimbabwe.
A full body scan, known as PET scan, costs around $5 000 in Zimbabwe but in India it is as
low as $500.
Speaking on the sidelines of India’s 2nd international summit on medical value travel taking place here in Greater Noida, Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to India Mr Maxwell Ranga said the number of Zimbabweans seeking treatment in India continues to increase because of the high cost of medical care in private practice, and little service provision in public health institutions.
Mr Ranga criticised the idea of coming to India for medical reasons saying Zimbabwe must utilise the opportunity to partner with the Indian community to resuscitate public health institutions so that people access affordable and high quality medical care.
“I am totally against medical tourism. My main thrust is to lure these hospitals and practitioners to come and open hospitals in Zimbabwe and be able to provide these much needed services to our patients in the comfort of their home country.
He said the embassy identified several hospitals and practitioners who were willing to partner with Zimbabwean institutions, but his efforts were falling on deaf ears back home.
“I have approached several hospitals and they are keen on coming to open hospitals in Zimbabwe or even partner with our local institutions, but we are having challenges in getting responses from the relevant officials back home. Last year, I had a hospital which wanted to open an eye clinic, and I have written several letters but to no avail,” he saidMr Ranga urged all relevant ministries to put their heads together and address the situation, which is cumbersome for the patient.
Separate interviews conducted with Indian health facilities exhibiting at the summit showed that a majority of them were interested in partnering with Zimbabwean institutions particularly in provision of services that are not available in the country.
Asian Bariatrics vice chairman Dr Sanjay Patolia said they were keen to offer treatments for extreme obesity and diabetes to Zimbabwean patients in their home country.
“What we just need is to identify a partnering institution and work on modalities of helping the Zimbabwean patients on a win-win situation,” said Dr Patolia.
Asked on the feasibility of offering the services in Zimbabwe at the same cost that the Indians are charging in their country, Apollo Hospitals International Limited general manager — healthcare services Mr Shahid Parwez said costs might be different but would definitely be affordable.
He said the Indian model was based on luring patients through affordable healthcare costs,
a model which he said has worked well in attracting patients from all over the world.
Although the exact number of Zimbabweans seeking treatment from India could not immediately be obtained, sources claim that an average of 50 patients visit India for medical reasons every month.
According to the Federation of Indian Chamber and Commerce (FICCI) about 500 000 patients from all over the world seek medical services from India annually.