Nepal as a medical tourism destination has tremendous potential. I am saying this because of my recent experience when I was in an Indian restaurant in the United States. During my recent visit, the restaurant manager, knowing that I was from Nepal, came to me with his team, requesting to organise a 4-week trip to Nepal. When I asked him why he wanted to visit Nepal, he said it was for dental treatment. At first, I was completely shocked, as I was unaware of it. The manager had done his research and said that the dental treatment in Nepal was six times cheaper than in the US. So, with the cost of treatment in the US, he could have the dental checkup in Nepal and also organize a holiday trip for his family in India to the Himalayan nation. Likewise, talking about medical tourism, I would also like to recall the late Dr. Upendra Devkota. A sizable number of foreigners from Latin America and even from the United States used to visit Nepal for neuro surgery. They could do it all for a reasonable charge, which in return would add extra revenue to the medical institute in Nepal.
Likewise, my company, Himalayan Holiday Trek, started a medical outreach program 30 years ago. Under this outreach program, we would organize medical treks and expedition programs where doctors and medical staff would come to Nepal through travel packages and go to the remote areas for medical camps. At the same time, this could provide medical services to the unreachable destination and allow doctors to enjoy the magnificent views of the place at the same time. Under such an outreach program, some of the famous fly doctors have visited Nepal and shared their experiences, which has helped to attract some other teams to Nepal. Some of the travel agencies still conduct such outreach programs and sell packages to interested teams of doctors.
Additionally, the third side of medical tourism that I know is of foreigners suffering from altitude sickness and injuries during expeditions coming down to Kathmandu for recovery. Foreigners stay in hospitals and hotels for weeks or months before flying back to their home country.So, it would allow local clinics to have some extra foreigners for treatment and revenue. Hence, medical tourism is one area where Nepal stands to benefit tremendously from.
With the advancement of medical infrastructure, Nepal can attract lots of foreigners who want reasonable medical treatments. This would allow both the government and the medical institute to generate extra revenue and job opportunities. Likewise, the medical outreach program can help travel agencies generate earnings from the interested medical teams. On the other hand, the doctors can have the experience of their life and those in need could receive the needed treatments.
Earlier, the process for the outreach program was simple. However, the situation has changed lately. The doctors need permits from the Nepal Medical Council and the local authorities for the medical program. The process for getting the permit has become cumbersome and most people don’t want to go through the hectic proceedings. So, this process needs to be made simple in order to encourage foreigners to come in under such packages. Likewise, in the past, we faced a major jolt, especially with the rescue operations involving helicopters. It should be made transparent so that foreigners can trust us. Similarly, we don’t have sufficient and strong health infrastructure. We need to invest in it.