Monsoon rains, believed to be the heaviest in 80 years, have left nearly 3,000 people still missing following recent floods and landslides that hit the state of Uttarakhand in India at the peak of tourism season, the chief minister said.
The Apollo Hospitals Group, a leading provider of medical tourism opportunities in India, has offered relief in the form of medical facilities, doctors and medicines to victims of the natural disaster. A 16-member team from its hospitals in Chennai, Hyderabad and Bangalore has been on standby waiting for directions from local Uttarakhand government officials.
More than 800 people are reported to have been killed so far, but the exact number of deaths may never be known. Hundreds are still trapped in the Badrinath area, reports say, and some 100,000 people have already been evacuated from the flood-hit region. Swollen rivers have swept away entire villages in the state. While a majority of the stranded has been rescued, the extent of the damage to local communities is still unclear.
Some critical of the government say authorities overlooked unregulated tourism in the area. Uttarakhand’s two shrines where most pilgrims are stranded — Badrinath and Kedarnath — have witnessed almost a four-fold increase in visitors in a decade, hinting at the ecologically unsustainable growth there.
India serves as a worldwide destination hub for tourism of all sorts. The World Travel and Tourism Council calculated that tourism generated $121 billion or 6.4 percent of the nation’s GDP in 2011, and was responsible for 39.3 million jobs, 7.9 percent of its total employment.
Across India, patients from all around the world including the United States flock to the country for its medical tourism opportunities, particularly for low prices and high-quality physicians. According to a study by the Confederation of Indian Industries, the medical tourism industry in India is worth an estimated $310 million. The country attracts about 100,000 foreign patients a year, 40 percent of which go to Chennai.
The New Indian Express reported, “World-class treatment at almost 1/10th of the cost with no waiting time for surgeries as compared with advanced nations like the UK and the USA that have been instrumental in a large number of foreign arrivals to access healthcare services in India.”
Part of that success is credited to the Apollo Hospitals Group, a network of facilities across the country. Apollo Hospitals first started as one 150-bed facility, and has since grown into 54 hospitals with more than 8,500 beds. The network also boasts Joint Commission International accreditation at seven of its hospitals, the largest number by any group in the region.
Technology is at the core of Apollo’s mission and success. One such innovation is Novalis TX radiosurgery and radiotherapy for certain cancer treatments. Novalis shapes the radiation beam to match the exact outline of the tumor to ensure the entire cancer is treated with minimal effect on surrounding cells. This outpatient procedure last up to 20 minutes and is non-invasive.
Another innovation involves fibroid treatments. The MRI-guided HIFU (Magnetic Resonance Imaging-guided High Intensity Focused Ultrasound) is a three-hour, non-invasive procedure that sends sound waves through the body to heat and coagulate the fibroid tissues. There is no radiation involved, no anesthesia required, and minimal discomfort. Patients can resume normal activities the following day.