Visa bans block Bangladesh patients travelling to India

The Indian government has suspended travel and medical tourist visas from Bangladesh into India. Medical travel agencies that used to send Bangladeshis to India are now having to seek local hospitals for their customers. If agents find Bangladesh hospitals they can trust and refer locals to, then this might permanently change the numbers travelling to India for treatment.

The best hospitals in Bangladesh can be found in the capital Dhaka. Most people in Bangladesh live in rural areas, and are catered for by non-qualified village doctors, who make up over half of all practising healthcare providers. There is a generally low standard of healthcare and education, and high levels of disease and malnutrition.

400,000 Bangladeshis go overseas for treatment each year. India Tourism Statistics 2018 says, one in every five tourists in India is Bangladeshi. According to the Bureau of Immigration, of the 10,557,929 foreign visitors in India, 2,256,675 were Bangladeshi tourists, and 225,668 had medical visas.

The reasons for going to India include cancer care, diabetic treatment, gynaecological problems, kidney problems, heart disease, ear, nose, throat problems and other treatment.

There are inadequate medical facilities in Bangladesh. Various agencies promote medical tourism to India and Malaysia.

After the Indian government suspended travel and medical tourist visas from Bangladesh into India the natural reaction was for patients to go to Malaysia until it too closed the borders to medical tourists. Singapore is an alternative, but is far more expensive than India.

PlanMyMed sends 200 Bangladeshi patients to India each month, however now some patients taking cancer treatment have been sent back to Bangladesh, mid-treatment. Cancer care is rare in Bangladesh, but the agency is seeking local specialist doctors for therapy and other treatment.

Ahoy Bangladesh, a medical travel agency based in India, has 300 to 400 Bangladeshi patients applying for Indian medical visas per month. With no idea of how long the ban will last, the agency is now seeking treatment in Bangladesh.