It was desperation that drove Paul to type "surgery in India" into a search engine after reading a story about successful treatment in India in The Barrie Examiner. Agonising pain kept his wife in bed for 16 to 20 hours a day, and the wait for an appointment with the right kind of doctor—leave alone surgery—was no less painful. Google took Smith to the Jethuas in Warwickshire and they found him spinal surgeon Dr Yash Gulati in Delhi The Smiths e-mailed him 15 questions through Taj Medical Services, covering the range from AIDS to aftercare, and booked their seats after they got his answers.

They are going home in a few hours and they won't be returning.

After an operation at Apollo, you can recuperate at Fisherman's Cove, a beach resort off Chennai

One giant leap into the unknown was probably enough. And yet, they couldn't be more grateful, raving about their doctor, dreaming about a better life for Marlene, determined to spread the word about India.

Fortunately for the tourism ministry not all medical tourists confine themselves to hospital rooms. Amitabh Kant, the bureaucrat who helped successfully reinvent Kerala as God's own Ayurvedic paradise, is leading the ministry's initiative to promote India as a "global healthcare destination". So, after incredible temples, incredible tigers and incredible yoga, it's now going to be incredible doctors backed by incredible technology. Glossy brochures, prepared with the help of ad agency Ogilvy and Mather, feature men and women in spotless white coats bending over patients against backdrops of sleek medical hardware.

Sheryl Weidner; American
Treatment : Plastic surgery
"There is a different energy here, a different mood...a lot of nurturing. It’s much more personal than in the States," says Sheryl, a teacher from Oregon. Seen here with friend Serena Taylor who made a snap decision to buy herself an eyelift.

The patients in the brochure seem mostly white and middle-aged, for a reason: Kant is aiming way beyond the harried middle classes from SAARC countries, Afghanistan and poorer African countries who have been flocking to India for specialised medical care which their countries lack. They, too, are coming in rising numbers, especially from Afghanistan and Africa, and sure, hospitals want their custom. But for reasons of both prestige and money, what really excites both government and industry is the fatter wallets in western countries with ageing populations and rising healthcare costs—and the Gulf, where seekers are finding it harder to access medical treatment in the West, post 9/11.

It's definitely not the titled rich that are showing up here. Cosmetic surgeon Mohan Thomas's upcoming patients include a pair of London cabbies, husband and wife, coming for facelifts. But even a schoolteacher from Bognor Regis can book a nice room when a hip replacement costs less than half of what it does back home. If they like the main course, western patients will also splurge on side dishes. Like Briton Barry Peters, who came to get a hip replaced, and got his teeth done as well, paying less for the whole treatment, including airfares, than just the dental would have cost him in London. Or Serena Taylor from California, who came to look after her friend seeking plastic surgery, and decided to buy an eyelift. It must be like eyeing a pricey handbag for several weeks and suddenly finding it at 80 per cent off. What else can you say but, "I'll have that"?

Hospitals, hotels and spas are serving up more temptations. The Apollo Group, which already offers its patients a post-op package, including the services of paramedics, at Fisherman's Cove, a beach resort outside Chennai, is tying up with the Taj group of hotels for transfers to 38 leisure hotels.

Courtsy : Outlook Magazine

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