Healthcare in India
 

A vivid and diverse society, there is something evocative that’s unique to India. Expats have been drawn to this eclectic country for many generations, and recently it’s about more than just the stunning festivals and natural beauty.

The tech industry in India is on the rise, and the country is fast becoming one of the largest economies in the world. However, India is still plagued by a number of development issues including a huge wealth disparity, gender inequality, painfully slow bureaucratic processes and a poor standard of healthcare. When it comes to their personal medical needs, expats generally find that their requirements are best taken care of by the private sector.

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Insufficient funding from state governments means that public hospitals in India tend to be poorly equipped and overcrowded, with long waiting times for treatment. This is more evident in rural parts of India where public health concerns are exacerbated by poor sanitation.

India also suffers from a chronic shortage of qualified doctors. While there are a handful of good public hospitals in some metropolitan areas, these are unlikely to be up to the standards that Western expats are accustomed to. Those who can, opt to go private – this is true of both locals and expats.

Private healthcare in India is of a high standard, and expats can rest assured that their medical needs will be well taken care of. One can expect well-trained medical professionals and state-of-the-art equipment at private hospitals in India. The cost of treatment is generally lower than in developed countries – so much so that India is fast becoming a popular medical tourism destination.

Most private hospitals are found in the major Indian cities. Expats in more rural parts of India might have to travel a couple of hours to reach the closest private facility.

International private health insurance is a must for expats moving to India. While there are local health insurance providers available, international policies generally offer more extensive coverage. Taking out a comprehensive policy is particularly important for those planning to visit rural parts of India.

When choosing a policy, it’s important to ensure that one’s desired hospital or clinic is covered. Some medical facilities will request payment upfront – in such a case, be sure to keep all receipts so that fees can be reimbursed by the insurer.

Pharmacies in India are easy to come by in main urban centres. Most are either attached to private healthcare facilities or located in shopping areas and centres. Everyday medicines are readily available, but expats travelling to rural areas should take ample supply of their medications as pharmacies in these areas are often understocked.

There are several health concerns that could hamper an expat’s assignment in India. However, with the right precautions, these risks can be minimised.

Most tap water in India isn’t safe for drinking, so it’s best to stick to consuming bottled water. Food hygiene standards aren’t always rigidly maintained, so expats should also be wary when purchasing goods from street vendors and local restaurants.

As malaria can be an issue in parts of India, expats should take steps such as using repellent sprays, covering skin and sleeping under mosquito nets.

The heat and humidity in certain regions can be a source of discomfort for some new arrivals. Using a high-SPF sunscreen when out and about and drinking plenty of water to avoid dehydration is advisable.

Expats are also advised to ensure that their vaccines are up to date, including those for Covid-19, Hepatitis A and B, typhoid, cholera and yellow fever.

India’s roads are notoriously congested and, along with the poor state of many government-funded ambulances, relying on emergency services in India is not ideal. If not in a life-threatening situation, expats should consider making their own way to the hospital if they can, as it may be quicker than waiting for an ambulance. Most paramedics working in urban areas will speak English, but this may not be the case in rural areas.

Private ambulance services are also generally available from most private hospitals, for an additional fee, but expats should enquire as to the nature of vehicles and services they are paying for. Expats with a comprehensive health insurance policy should be able to claim back the cost of using a private ambulance in India.

India’s national emergency number is 112, and while some operators may speak English, this is not always the case. Expats can also call for an ambulance directly by dialling 102.