The number of Kenyans seeking treatment in India almost doubled in the two years to 2011 on the back of lower hospital bills and higher rate of successful medical operations.
Data from the Indian High Commission shows that the number of Kenyans issued with medical visas to India rose from 458 in 2009 and 784 in 2010 to 810 last year. The treatments sought abroad included plastic surgery.
“The kinds of illnesses vary from heart-related, neurological, to kidney related,” said the Indian High Commission in Nairobi in an email statement to the Business Daily.
The total number of Kenyans seeking treatment abroad is believed to be much higher as India is just one of various options. Insurance brokerage firm Aon Kenya says the popular destinations for medical tourism include Israel, the United Kingdom, Pakistan, South Africa and USA.
Industry players say that most Kenyans do not specify that they are going to India for medical reasons, choosing instead to travel as tourists. The cost of medicare in Kenya has been rising year-on-year, driven by the high cost of drugs, food, fuel and high staff costs. “Perhaps one of the reasons is that a number of medical equipment and drugs are made in India meaning that they can deliver treatment at lower costs,” said the chief executive of Kenyatta National Hospital Richard Lesiyampe.
Mr Lesiyampe however said that if travel and accommodation costs are factored in, the costs in India could be even higher than in Kenya. Data from Aon Kenya shows that hospital inflation increased by 13 per cent in 2010 while the cost of physician services rose by an average of 10 per cent.