Promising cheap operations and no waiting time, India's high tech hospitals attract plenty of Westerners. But what's the real cost of these 'medical tourists'?
"India is now ready to heal the world!" boasts Dr Prathap Reddy proudly, showing us around one of his 23 hospitals. Operations here cost a third of what they do in England. Controversially, they also take patients who have been denied treatment in their own country on medical grounds. But India's world-class medical facilities are beyond the reach of most Indians. "They virtually ignore their social duty and contractual obligation to give free service to the poor", complains Justice Sattar Qureshi. In exchange for generous government subsidies and token rents, they should allocate 30% of their beds to the poor. Instead these beds are being used to treat friends and relatives of officials. Even Anne Marie Moncure, managing director of one private hospital, admits "Sometimes we have patients in the government sponsored side that drive up in their Mercedes." At India's busiest public hospital, people queue all day for appointments that are often over in seconds. As Dr Sen Gupta complains "What is happening is an apology for healthcare."