The major healthcare problem in Uzbekistan is that it has a public healthcare system and a small private sector. Healthcare has improved in recent years, but adequate healthcare is still limited throughout the country. Cities in Uzbekistan are serviced by larger polyclinics, while rural areas are serviced by regional hospitals.
During the Soviet period, the healthcare in the country for the common citizens was free. After the independence of Uzbekistan from the Soviet Union on 1st September 1991, the country had struggled a lot to upgrade the quality of healthcare for its citizens. The annual expenditure on healthcare has increased. It went through a severe healthcare crisis due to the unavailability of basic medical supplies. Both the Government and people of the country suffered due to a serious imbalance in the distribution of healthcare resources and personnel and limited access to basic and emergency medical care. Therefore, the section of people who could afford preferred to travel abroad for medical care like Turkey, Russia, and India.
India is always known as a center of affordable quality healthcare for many countries. For the private healthcare centers in major cities of India, "Medical Tourism has been proved as a successful business". As per reports, medical tourism in India is increasing by 30% every year. For international patients, many private hospitals in India provide the highest quality healthcare using the latest techniques and technologies at the lowest price and that is the reason it attracts many patients from Bangladesh, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Central Asian countries including Uzbekistan, Middle East, and African Continent etc.
One of the greatest qualities of the people of Uzbekistan is that love and respect the Indian culture and Indian community by heart. Hindi movies dubbed into Uzbek or Russian are always their favorite. They love Raj Kapoor, Mithun Chakravarty (Jimmy), Amitabh Bachchan, and Shahrukh Khan. Both the nations had many historical ties for being on the Silk Road. The second Prime Minister of India Late Lal Bahadur Shastri breathe his last in Tashkent, the capital city of Uzbekistan, and a monument constructed in memory is located there. The ancestors of the "Shahi Imam" of Jama Masjid in Delhi were migrated from the historic city of Bukhara who was invited by the then Emperor of India Shah Jahan. The founder of Moughal Empire in India Babur was born in Andijan, a town near Samarkand, the cultural capital of Uzbekistan.
India's advanced facilities, skilled doctors, and low-cost treatment have made it an ideal destination for patients from Uzbekistan. The international relationship between the Republic of India and the Republic of Uzbekistan is very strong. Both the Indian physicians and healthcare is trusted by most of the citizens of Uzbekistan. With India emerging as one of the best and leading medical tourism hubs internationally, not only a single section of people but patients from almost all sections of society in Uzbekistan started flocking to India for treatment.
But not everyone could or can travel to Indian hospitals to avail quality treatment. Sometimes due to financial issues or sometimes due to language problems. The Government of the Republic of Uzbekistan always tried to bring quality healthcare at an affordable cost to its country for every citizen following India as an example. As a developing nation, the Republic of Uzbekistan made tremendous progress in a short time and under President Shavkat Mirziyoyev the healthcare of the nation has been upgraded. All the healthcare needs of the people of the country are almost brought to solutions and are tried to be brought under one roof on the land of Uzbekistan. Strong international relationships are established to promote foreign investments in private healthcare of the country and to import medical supplies from other countries.
The President has invited the well-known reputed hospitals of India to collaborate with local healthcare providers of Uzbekistan. This policy has attracted many Indian investors to cities like Tashkent and Samarkand to invest in private hospitals and clinics and upgrade the quality of healthcare by implementing an Indian healthcare system in Uzbekistan that the common citizens of the country expect. This policy has also promoted visits of Indian physicians and surgeons to the hospitals of the country to treat patients. Many of the private hospitals and healthcare centers have employees of Indian Doctors and Nurses to provide a quality healthcare service to its people staying on their own land. Collaboration with Indian Hospitals has strengthened the healthcare relation between both countries.
Sharing of ideas, concepts, and experiences between the Doctors and other medical staff of both countries has brought the people of Uzbekistan much closer to their healthcare needs. Time has changed and they no longer need to travel to other countries for consultations and treatments. The Indian healthcare providers are providing the same quality treatment to them in their own country. Patients are referred to India only when some deficiencies are found. This way they are saving both valuable time and money. People who could not travel to other countries due to language issues can now avail proper healthcare services and can communicate with their favorite Indian Physician (through an interpreter) without learning any new language.
Once President Mirziyoyev said in his speech that, "The health awareness among the citizens of the country is growing and they want the latest healthcare in their homeland". India is always his point of interest and he had visited India from 30th September to 1st October 2018 when 17 agreements were signed between the two countries where health and medical science were also included.
Today, Uzbekistan itself is coming up as a center of Medical Tourism in Central Asia. It is following India's policies to attract patients from other Central Asian countries. Tashkent, for being an important city since the Soviet era, attracts multiple patients from neighbouring countries like Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, etc. The city of Samarkand for being a Tajik-dominated region attracts many patients from neighbouring Tajikistan to get treated in internationally recognised hospitals and clinics. In the same way, due to sharing an international border with Afghanistan, many Afghan patients wish to avail quality treatment in Uzbekistan. The patients from these countries travel to Uzbekistan to have consultations and treatment from Indian physicians and surgeons and receive services from Indian staff. Previously many of them preferred to travel to India but due to cultural similarities, similar food habits, and commonly spoken language (Russian, spoken as the common language in entire Central Asia), Uzbekistan is highly preferred today as a developed healthcare destination. Other than this the citizens of Central Asian Countries (former Republics of Soviet Union) do not need visas to travel within. They can easily move whenever they feel convenient.
This concept has opened many job opportunities for the locals in private healthcare setups and also contributing to generating revenues to improve the country's economy. Previously as the flow of patients were less in private hospitals and most patients preferred Government hospital due to lack of services in private setups, the pay scale of the healthcare workers was very low. The hospital staff couldn't even meet their basic needs. They preferred to migrate to countries like UK, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Russia, Turkey, and the Maldives where the pay is much more than in Uzbekistan. Many of the local physicians, surgeons, and other paramedical workers who previously preferred to work in other countries today prefer to work in their own country following the country's developments in healthcare industries that is contributed by India.
The author is the Chief Medical Administration Officer at Zarmed Pratiksha Hospital, Samarkand, Uzbekistan and can be reached at email@example.com