An Iraqi patient’s eagerness to get treated for spinal deformity in a government hospital in Mumbai has encouraged J J Group of Hospitals to consider pushing for medical tourism, a concept limited to corporate hospitals in India so far.
Eman Amin Mehdi, aged 20, underwent spinal surgery to rectify scoliosis, a deformity causing curvature in spine, in J J hospital at a cost of Rs 1.5 lakh. Similar surgeries in the United States and Germany where she had enquired cost Rs 50 lakh, she claimed.
Mehdi, a medical student in a college in Armenia, suffered from the deformity for six years. Her one shoulder was hunched up from one side and hip protruded from other side. The hunch became severe in the last year and she started seeking medical opinion. Her friend, also a medical student, searched online for treatment options and came across the spine department of Gokuldas Tejpal (GT) hospital, a sister facility of J J hospital. Unsure of treatment in a government hospital in India, her family first made enquiries through their embassy and then reached out to the hospital.
“I was not sure whether I want to be operated in India. I knew nothing about the hospital. We made several inquiries in other countries and found that the spine department in Mumbai was really good,” Mehdi told The Indian Express over a phone call from Armenia.
The 20-year-old suffered back pain and breathlessness and used multiple layers of clothing to hide the hunched back when she visited GT hospital in August this year. The former dean of J J hospital, Dr Ajay Chandanwale, decided to make special arrangements for her surgery. Two staff nurses, Ranjana Khatal and Smita Maskar, trained in scoliosis surgery were transferred for a day from GT to J J hospital to help in procedure.
“I had never thought that I will get operated on the basic cost of implant and minimal hospital fees. There was no extra cost. The cost is much less than several Indian hospitals I reached out to,” Mehdi said.
Spine surgeon Dr Dhiraj Sonawane said Mehdi’s case had no complications. “She was able to walk on the second day of surgery,” he said. Imported implants, neuromonitoring device and specialised equipment was used in her surgery. Doctors said an advanced technology called autotransfusion, to transfuse her own blood into her body, was also used during the procedure.
Three months after the surgery, she had a medical follow-up through video call with doctors in Mumbai. She said she rested for a month before continuing studies in Armenia.
Following the surgery of the Iraqi national, doctors in GT hospital’s spine department are hopeful of treating more foreign nationals. J J hospital’s dean Dr Pallavi Saple said the hospital specialises in cardiology and neurosurgery apart from spinal procedures that can be pushed for medical tourism. On Wednesday, the hospital conducted a workshop on neurosurgery where foreign doctors participated.
“Government hospitals already have a lot of patients. But our efforts are always directed to also attract upper middle class and middle class patients. If patients from abroad come, it could boost confidence in government hospitals,” Saple said.
She added that medical tourism will not only commercially benefit the hospital but also encourage more Indians to seek treatment from public hospitals. The dean plans to discuss procedure for medical tourism with medical education secretary. “We need to decide whether we should advertise for medical tourism or not,” Saple said.