A Spanish priest being treated for Ebola died on Tuesday amidst a worldwide debate over who should get experimental Ebola treatments.
After a meeting with medical experts, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared it is ethical to use ZMapp and other unproven Ebola drugs. ZMapp is in very short supply and its manufacturer, Mapp Biopharma, said it had sent all available supplies to West Africa.
Meanwhile, a Spanish priest, one of the three patients on whom ZMapp was administered, died on Tuesday. The others are two Americans. Ebola has already killed 1,013 people and there have been 1,848 reported cases. In Mumbai, the Ebola virus has hit medical tourism.
How many medical tourists come here?
City hospitals see at least 100-150 patients from South Africa a month. SevenHills hospital alone receive 35-50 of them. With the Ebola outbreak, corporate hospitals like Jaslok have decided to restrict the number of patients from that country. "The Ebola outbreak has become a bigger public health problem and it will have a cascading effect on medical tourism," Dr Hemlata Arora, VP, medical, SevenHills, said.
So, what are hospitals doing now?
"We have issued advisories to our doctors," Dr Tarang Gianchandani, CEO, Jaslok Hospital & Research Centre, said. "At the moment, we will restrict their entry unless they require urgent surgery. But we will take a final call only after thoroughly checking the patient for Ebola virus," he said. SevenHills has not taken an official stand, but Arora said her team of doctors has been put on high alert about treating South African patients.
What other safety measures are they taking?
"We have 2-3 check points. Our international coordinator, who helps patients get through to us, will look into small details as far the virus infection is concerned. We have complete control on South African patients coming to our hospital," Arora of SevenHills hospital said.
Will medical tourism be hit for a long time?
Not for very long, says Dr Vishal Beri, CEO, Hinduja Healthcare, surgical, Khar. "We are asking doctors to be extra cautious when meeting South African patients. While surgeries will be postponed for a while, emergency cases will be dealt with after taking into account the virus infection status and directives from health officials," he said. Dr S Narayani, facility director, Fortis hospital, Mulund, also agreed the Ebola scare has hit medical tourism.
—(With inputs from Bloomberg)