TODAY -

Manipur's dream of Medical Tourism

Surendranath Sharma *

 Shija Hospitals and Research Institute, Langol
Shija Hospitals and Research Institute, Langol :: Pix - Santosh Shekhar



Going by the flurry of exchanges between the Manipur Government and Myanmarese officials in the recent past, the present Ibobi Government seem to seriously espouse the intent of the Look East Policy.

The accompaniment of a business delegation on the Chief Minister's Myanmar trip may be seen as the first visual appreciation of the maturing of private business in the peripheral State of Manipur. It is the first step towards the long drawn formation of a committed business class which is so vital to the development of any place, be it a country or a province.

What is touted as having a big economic potential for Manipur is Medical Tourism. It is towards this end that an entourage including delegates from Manipur's nascent private Healthcare industry had tagged along with the Chief Minister and his ministerial lieutenants on their recent Myanmar trip.

A presumably ready market that the opening up of Myanmar affords Manipur is indeed a window that needs earnest exploration and exploitation, Healthcare business being one among them.

Potential and prospective Myanmarese contemplating coming over to Manipur for medical treatment would, in all likelihood, not be considering the State Government facilities.

They will seek the best services. Best services can be expected from the private players. But it is not to be assumed that there is no competition. Thailand is the biggest competitor. It is common even for the Bhutanese elite to fly to Bangkok not only for treatment but even for casual shopping.

Myanmar's geographical and cultural proximity with Thailand cannot be overlooked. To beat the competition, the private players would spruce up their expertise, technology and services. The State would need to ensure minimum necessary infrastructure such as assured Power supply and hygienic potable water.

Lawlessness too must be hurled to the netherworld. While Private Capital may measure up to the quality needs, it is far unlikely that the State could offer what it is expected to.

What marks off Private Healthcare industry is that it is almost recession proof. Illness is a natural accompaniment of life. Hypothetically, as the industry matures, facilities will improve, possibly and hopefully raising the standards of private healthcare to international standards.

World class doctors will be available to examine and treat our beleaguered patients who would rather faint awaiting his turn in the visibly dirty, claustrophobic waiting halls of Government hospitals. The latest Diagnostic tools will make their footprint and talent from across the globe can be hired at a price.

Competition will engender cost cutting and better services. MRI will not be just MRI. It will be 3 TESLA. Perhaps CT Scanners will be 320 Slice, competing with John Hopkins, USA. The long outdated 16 Slice CT Machines will reluctantly find their way to the Disposal Yard.

The people of Manipur will not need to struggle going to outside destinations to avail world class medical care. Nothing could be more appealing than that. Furthermore, it will widen the employment opportunity net, so badly needed in the State.

That which entreats public estimation is the consideration of such a hypothetical scenario where Healthcare tourism is a reality in Manipur. For heuristic analysis, let us presume the Healthcare talent pool in Manipur at the moment is constant. It is a given that the doctors and Specialists currently available are largely Government employees.

Does not the temptation of higher compensation to the limited pool of specialists and super specialists portend an exodus from the Government Healthcare delivery system?

Worse still, does it also not threaten to lap up the lucrative opportunities offered in the private sector by the existing Government doctors by doubling up as Consultants in the private sector?

In both the possible scenarios, will not divided attention of healthcare givers adversely impact the poor common people who wholly and solely depend on Government Hospitals?

Without commensurate expansion of the talent pool, degradation of quality in Government Healthcare delivery system will be a natural corollary.

Talent resource pie till the near future will be a zero sum game. The basic motive of any business is profit. To avail world class treatment, one too must pay world class fees. While for the rich it offers convenience and comfort, but it also has the potential to undercut the interest of the poor.

What is, therefore, needed is a long term concerted effort and perspective planning by the State Government aimed at enlarging the specialist pool over the next few years such that Private Medical industry is allowed a foothold to grow while also ensuring that the burgeoning poorer lot are not disadvantaged in their access to Government healthcare service.

While it is an opportunity begging to be exploited, this exploitation must not exploit the helplessness of the poor who are equal citizens of the State.

Further, there exists the danger of profit motive overriding ethics. It also demands a system of checking unscrupulous practices. Incidents like Infant theft and Organ trade are realities in today's material world.

The Government will do well to come out with a Private Healthcare Policy Statement, taking into account the concerns of all stakeholders. This will enable spawning of the desired Medical Tourism Industry while also protecting and safeguarding the interest of the less advantaged common people at large.


* Surendranath Sharma wrote this article for Hueiyen Lanpao (English Edition)
This article was posted on July 10, 2013.



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