Major fall in international patients to Hyderabad, India

Hyderabad hospitals have seen a drastic fall in international patients due to COVID-19.

Hyderabad, the capital of southern India’s Telangana state, is known for medical tourism.  People from several countries choose to travel to the city for specialised treatment, which is packaged at competitive prices. Hyderabad’s hospitals usually record a sizeable number of people visiting from foreign countries every year.

But the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically reduced the number of people travelling to the city for medical treatment.

According to hospitals in the city, the number of foreign patients has fallen by around 70% over the last year. Some are prepared to share their experiences, but most refuse to comment.

Medicover says the number of foreign patients travelling to their hospital has reduced by around 50%, although they are still receiving foreign patients for emergency procedures for cardiac, orthopedic and neurosurgery, relating to brain tumours and cancer. Most patients are from East Africa, Iraq and the Middle East. The hospital used to get around 70-80 patients per month from foreign countries but now it has reduced to around 30 to 35 per month.

Continental Hospital says that the number of international patients has fallen by 60-70%. But online footfall has increased drastically especially website leads, email enquiries, direct connections with regional managers, and enquiries on video consultations.

In the three years before the pandemic, the hospital witnessed rapid growth in international patient footfall. 4,000 international patients visited Continental Hospital annually in pre-pandemic years. 1,200 international patients visited the hospital in 2020 and 1,500 international patients consulted through online platforms. The majority of patients from abroad are from East African countries including Somalia, Sudan, Kenya, Rwanda and Yemen. Most of these patients are treated for illnesses related to cardiology, oncology, neuroscience, gastroenterology and orthopaedics.

Yashoda Hospitals has a sizeable inflow of international patients annually, and saw travel plans of several patients disrupted when the flight ban was announced in 2020. The opening of some countries and evacuation flights from August 2020 opened doors to a few African, CIS and Middle East countries, but the patients who travelled to the Hyderabad hospital were only those who needed urgent and critical treatment. 70% of patients who usually travelled to India either postponed their plans or chose alternative options in their own country.

Normally the hospital treats patients from around 40 countries, with an annual total of 4,000 – 4,500 inpatients and 3,000 outpatients. The majority of international patients were from African countries including Uganda, Rwanda, Zambia, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kenya, Cameroon, Tanzania, Somalia and Sudan. It also has a considerable number of patients from Iraq, Oman, Yemen, UAE and Saudi. Bangladesh, Uzbekistan and Myanmar are the other places it gets patients from. Most international patients to Yashoda Hospitals seek treatment for illnesses related to oncology, neurology, brain and spine treatments.