Reports out if India -- a leader in medical tourism -- say that bookings for non life-threatening surgeries are down due to the worldwide economic slowdown.
Brokers who arrange the surgeries -- and the required flights, transfers and hotel rooms -- say inquiries from patients are down significantly from last year at this time. Dr Mikdad Ukaye, part owner of Vasai-based Royal Medical Tours, said patients are worried they may not be able to afford the surgery, and expects about a 50 per cent drop in business in the coming year.
“Earlier, we received least 2-3 calls per day from clients abroad, but this year it has come down to barely 1 or 2 calls in a week. ... They are reluctant to even transfer the deposit amount thinking what if they change their plans at the last moment.”
India has been a leader in medical tourism, offering surgeries at a fraction of U.S. prices -- and up to half the cost of some other destinations.
Until now, most reports and studies have predicted fast growth for the sector, with a growing number of U.S health insurance companies offering medical tourism packages as a way to keep rates down.
Singapore's Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan said last week that slower growth in the city-state's large medical tourism industry was due to a lack of capacity.
"I don't think it's because of demand, or we are losing competitiveness, but capacity is constrained...Both public and private hospitals are short of capacity...I think it's a situation of where demand has been curtailed because we don't have enough capacity to respond."
Singapore hopes to attract over 1 million international patients a year by 2012, nearly three times the current number.