Medical tourism

November 14, 2011 at 12:25

This is a re-posted op-ed piece.

Years before former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo decided that she needed medical attention overseas, the government started promoting the Philippines as a destination for medical tourism. As in several other aspects, the promotion was either belated or lacked the steam manifested in other Asian countries, which also saw the huge revenue potential from medical travel. Amid the financial crisis in 1997, these countries started re-tooling their health sectors for medical tourism.

Today the Philippines is lagging behind Thailand, India and Singapore in medical tourism. As of 2008, the three countries had cornered 90 percent of medical tourism in Asia, according to the Department of Health. The Philippine Medical Tourism Program was launched only in 2004. Between 2006 and 2010, the country earned about $350 million from medical travel. In contrast, Thailand, which has become a center for affordable plastic surgery, has earned billions of dollars from medical travel.

India and Singapore have positioned themselves as centers for advanced medical and pharmaceutical research. Many stories have been told of the efficiency and affordability of medical treatment in India, including complex surgical procedures. China is also racing to promote its medical services.

The Philippine Medical Association has emphasized that the country has enough competent specialists and other health professionals to deal with various ailments. Entertainment celebrities openly attest to the expertise of local plastic surgeons. In addition, the wellness industry is flourishing. All that is lacking is more aggressive marketing of the expert and affordable medical services available in the Philippines.

A similar problem afflicts the tourism industry in general. Even with the deficient tourism infrastructure and other woes plaguing the industry, the country has enough natural attractions that can compete with the best in the world as travel destinations.

A major edge over several other countries is the typical Filipino’s friendly, compassionate nature – something that has made nurses and other health professionals from the Philippines favored for employment overseas. The room for growth in medical tourism is vast. A boom in medical travel can also stop the country’s health professionals from leaving for better paying jobs abroad.
Source: The Philippine Star, Editorial, Nov. 12, 2011
To view the original article, click here.

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