The medical trade unions in India have slammed the Narendra Narendra Modi-led BJP government for its move to bring back the practice of medical tourism.
Speaking at a rally in Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday, Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare Kavita Krishnan, who is also the Minister of State for Health, had said the government had decided to take back medical tourists from abroad in a move that would harm the medical profession.
Krishnan said medical tourists have been allowed to come to India as long as they pay the dues and provide health certificates.
She said the move would not only hurt the profession but also the people of India.
“The decision of the government will also hurt our country,” she said.
“It is a big blow to the people who have been waiting for the government to get rid of medical tourists.”
Doctors and medical students, both in their 30s and in their 60s, said the cancellation of medical tourist permits was an insult to the doctors, nurses and students who have worked hard for decades to earn a living.
“It will definitely hurt the doctors,” said Dr Aamir Javed, a cardiologist from the city of Jammu.
“But it is a very big blow.
The people who were waiting for this have lost their livelihoods.””
I am sure we will continue our medical work, and will come back,” said Naseem Akhtar, a retired doctor from Bijbehara.
“I have a lot of friends in the medical field, but the government has decided to cancel our permits.
It is an insult.”
Dr Rajesh Yadav, a paediatrician from Bhopal, said he was in shock and disbelief.
“The government has just taken away a part of the medical industry,” he said.
The Medical Tourism Association of India (MTI) said the decision was “extremely worrying” as medical tourists are key to the livelihoods of the country’s doctors.
“This is a move to make India more attractive to medical tourists.
We are also worried about the consequences of this move on our livelihoods,” said its president, Rajesh Shukla.
“We have seen a lot more medical tourists leave India than come back after the medical tourism ban.”
Dr Akhtar said the Indian Medical Association, which represents about 250,000 doctors, has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi asking him to cancel the permits.
“Doctors have been working for many years for this,” he added.
“A lot of us are not in a good position now.”
Dr Chandrasekhar Gohil, a senior surgeon from Hyderabad, said: “Medical tourists are a very important part of our livelihood, but they are being punished.”
“The ban on medical tourists is a huge blow to our profession,” he told The Hindu.
“Doctors are not averse to giving up jobs but if they are forced to leave India, they would be extremely upset.”
He said the doctors who have returned to India after the ban were all on medical leave, while the ones who were abroad would not be allowed to return.
“These doctors will not be able to work.”