Goa, which conventionally had been developing as a dental tourism destination especially in the coastal belt, is gradually doubling up as a medical tourism locale in the domain of cosmetic, bariatric (the branch of medicine that deals with causes, prevention, and treatment of obesity) and orthopedic surgery.
Victor Apollo Hospital, part of the Alcon-Victor group, with its 150-bed hospital at Margao, is targeting this niche segment of medical tourism, so it says. Dentistry is simply not in its focus.
Edna Noronha, manager marketing of Apollo Victor says, “Since our foray in August of 2005, we’ve seen the number of medical tourism increasing from 100 in 2006-07 to 250 in 2007-08. Most of our patients are from the UK but we are also looking at the US and Australia. As of now the logistics support the volumes that come from Britain.”
That is to say, medical and dental tourism is really being driven by the air charter arrivals and tourists (mainly British) taking advantage of the nearly two-thirds savings if they undertake the same treatment here, not to mention the huge waiting lists.
She added, “Victor Albuquerque, our director, has directly promoting the business in the UK and has met doctors of the National Health Scheme (NHS) following which Apollo Victor signed a joint-venture with Go-Health floated by Dr Dilip Acquilla who operates at the South Grange NHS Medical Centre, Middlesbrough. The JV makes Go-Health exclusive facilitators for business, especially in lifestyle’ treatments – including cosmetic surgery – not routinely available under NHS.
Noronha claims, “Go-Health has guaranteed pre- and post-operative screening by doctors in the UK, and this way the fears of patients about being treated abroad have been allayed.”
“Our website has the CVs of all our resident doctors. Besides having resident bariatric and cosmetic surgeons, we have 15 deluxe suites for foreign patients. Since we are a part of a group that has three hotels in Goa, including the 5-star Dona Sylvia Resort, an ayurveda resort on the island of Divar and a travel agency, we can offer all-inclusive packages.”
Noronha has a word of caution however, “The skyrocketing price of aviation fuel, security concerns and a reported slashing of cost of medical and dental services in the West, has resulted in enquiries falling by almost 50 per cent this year. To counter this we would consider offering discounts and more from vacation options. So, in spite of these regressive indicators, we are targeting 40-50 per cent annual growth beginning 2008-09, our confidence evidenced by our plans to build an extra wing exclusively for medical and dental tourists.”
BY HERALD REPORTER