THE UNEXPLORED POTENTIAL

Editorial GREATER JAMMU

While India today offers state of the art treatment in numerous hospitals that can be compared to the best in the world with such hospitals spread out in various cities including New Delhi, Gurugram, Noida, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai, Hyderabad and Bangalore that excel in providing specialized treatment in areas like cardiology, orthopedic surgery, oncology, neurology, ophthalmology, cosmetic surgery, botox treatment, tummy tucks and dentistry, it is really an irony that the people of Jammu and Kashmir have to move to other nearby states for specialized treatment of patients in absence of satisfactory health care as the same is far from optimum standards. Today, India provides best-in-class treatment, in some cases at less than one-tenth the cost incurred abroad. It is pertinent to mention here that in most of the aforementioned hospitals well renowned doctors who hail from J&K have been playing a marvelous role in terms of providing health services including rare surgeries, Since patients abroad have to cough up huge amounts because of the expensive healthcare system and related insurance costs they prefer India where the costs get heavily minimized. Moreover, foreign patients get immediate attention and do not have to wait for weeks and months as they have to do in most of the western nations. Hospitals have even hired translators to help the foreigners feel at home and also help in carrying out the formalities. It is pertinent to mention here that the cities where these hospitals are located are not health resorts and yet these have become hubs of health or medical tourism. The question here arises as to why the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir as erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir failed to exploit the health or medical tourism despite every nook and corner here being a health resort especially the valley and hilly areas of Jammu region. Though the Jammu and Kashmir UT has SKIMS in Srinagar besides coming up AIIMS, still the people prefer to move outside the state for various ailments. The reasons may be multiple but the main being that the successive governments have failed to ensure or maintain optimum standard in the health institutions. Moreover, the medical fraternity in this Union Territory though with some exceptions has failed to gain the trust and confidence of the patients and people at large. Many a times there have been talks of promoting health tourism in this region but how would it be possible until the people of this UT are satisfied with the related infrastructure, facilities and services here. It needs to be realized that health tourism cannot be promoted by using it as a mere buzz phrase. In fact the whole society especially the medical fraternity and direct stakeholders will have to evolved as a whole to the extent that firstly it is ensured every patient in the UT prefers treatment here only, for which a conducive environment in health institutions is the first essential requirement. With Tourism being the backbone of the economy in Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory there is a need to augment it further with health tourism. We are living in a place where unemployment is more a pandemic than disease itself, green tourism gives hope of providing employment through credible and believable means. Therefore health tourism or medical tourism as called popularly can undoubtedly transform the image of this UT in the minds of tourists and make it much more popular travel destination yet again. Even though right now there doesn’t seem to be ample infrastructure to support the aspiration to bedeck the face of tourism with health but there is a huge scope for development and infrastructure build-up in this regard. It is hoped that the concerned stakeholders especially the UT Administration headed by the astute personality in LG Manoj Sinha initiates measures in this regard to formulate a well tailored medical tourism policy so that the potential of this Union Territory for this sector of tourism gets fully explored and utilized.