Healthcare in India

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Allianz Care - 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 not just because of the stunning festivals and natural beauty. The tech industry in India is on the rise, and it’s fast becoming one of the largest economies in the world. However, the country is still plagued by a number of development issues including a huge wealth disparity, gender issues, 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.

Public hospitals

Insufficient funding from state governments has meant 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.

To make matters worse, India suffers from a chronic shortage of qualified doctors and many locals turn to traditional medicine as an alternative. While there are a handful of decent public hospitals in certain metropolitan areas, these are unlikely to be up to the standards that Western expats are accustomed to. Those that can, opt to go private.

Private hospitals

Private healthcare in India is of a high standard so 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 the closest private facility.

Health insurance

Private health insurance is a must for expats moving to India. While there are local health insurance providers available, expats are likely to find that international policies 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 the hospital or clinic that you plan to use most regularly is covered. Some medical facilities will request payment up front, be sure to keep all receipts so that fees can be reimbursed by the insurer. 

Pharmacies and medication

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. Everyday medicines are readily available, but anyone travelling to rural areas should take ample supply of their medications.

Health hazards

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

Tap water in India isn’t safe for drinking, therefore, it’s best to stick to consuming bottled water. Food hygiene standards aren’t as rigidly maintained as they would be in developed countries, therefore expats should be wary when purchasing goods from street vendors and local restaurants.

Malaria is an issue in parts of India, so take steps to avoid being bitten by mosquitos.

Using repellent sprays, wearing long sleeves and sleeping under a mosquito net are all good preventative measures.

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.

Emergency services

India’s roads are notoriously congested and along with the poor state of many government-funded ambulances, relying on emergency services in India is a problem. Response times vary greatly, but the average wait in India is 30 minutes. Most paramedics working in urban areas will speak English but outside cities, the locally termed Hinglish can be frustrating, especially when one is trying to communicate in a stressful situations.

Private ambulance services are available, but expats should enquire about 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 an ambulance in India.

India’s national emergency number is 112, and while some operators may speak English, this is not always the case.

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