There have been at least a few times when we read that a family from Nepal/Bangladesh/Pakistan/Srilanka/Myanmar and perhaps other countries farther out in southeast Asia region had come to India for getting treatment for one of its members in one of the hospitals in India. These reports do not disguise the celebratory mood – look, people come to us for getting treated! We are so developed and so good in health sciences and healthcare practices! Add to that, we earned precious foreign exchange (to be honest, not so precious). This is Type-I medical tourism.
Is there a Type-II medical tourism? Yes, there is. The classification is based on classes, with and without political/money power, with possible exceptions, of which I can cite one.
Many times we have heard about people in power, or with more money than they know what to do with it, flying off to some western land to be treated for medical conditions. Like M G Ramachandran many years ago, when foreign reserve position must have been tenuous. Or, Sonia Gandhi, in the near past, when we were OK on the foreign reserve front. Or, now when some foreign doctor came to attend to the chief minister of Tamil Nadu, and who, I am sure, charged his fees and expenses to our foreign reserve card. These are the Type II medical tourism.
Wearing a cynical hat, I tend to think of this type of tourism as nothing more than asserting one’s status. This may have nothing to do with availability of more advanced facilities in foreign lands, or with more qualified foreign doctors, etc. We are repeatedly told that healthcare services can be, in some cases are indeed, provided across distances, tele-medicine being the name. The, why fly in those doctors? To show, “these foreign doctors, I can order them around, can beckon them as I fancy” etc. The possible exception was the instance of Delhi rape victim taken to Malaysia.
Type-I tourism seeks to maximize returns for a given amount of resources. India, providing necessary level of medical care, is eager to oblige, while earning foreign exchange and also some diplomatic brownie points. Type-II tourism merely asserts, “I can and therefore, I will.” Apparently, no enhanced utility.
Type-I is the real McCoy. Type-II is an imposter.