Wednesday, May 30, 2007

RP to promote medical tourism

Cebu City (23 May) -- With the worldwide earnings from medical tourism expected to reach US $188B by year 2013, the Philippines wants to share a slice of the global market as government is focusing its efforts in promoting the medical and surgical services of the country's capital abroad.

Department of Health (DOH-7) medical tourism regional program coordinator Dr. Cora-Lou Aznar in a PIA forum said the Philippines Medical Tourism Program is a private-public initiative aimed at attracting foreign clients to the country for medical and health and wellness care on top of leisurely vacation trips to tourist spots within the Philippines.

Aznar said the government recognizes the potential strength of the Philippines in providing health and medical services on par with international standards with medical specialists who are best educated and even trained abroad while medical centers, although most located in Metro Manila, are already ISO (international standard organization) compliant.

In 2004 alone, India earned US $600M followed by Thailand with US $300M and Malaysia with US $140M from its medical tourism industry, according to Kintanar.

We are pushing for the medical and surgical type of services which foreign clients can avail here at lesser costs like in areas in cardiac, ophthalmology and cosmetic dermatology, Kintanar said.

Kintanar cited the low costs of medical surgery in the country comparing it with the United States like for coronary by-pass heart surgery, this would cost US$ 50T compared to only US$ 10-25T only in the Philippines.

Lasik eye surgery in the country only costs US $1,000 but the amount is tripled in the US while for cosmetic surgery like breast augmentation, average price in the Philippines is at US$ 2T while in the US, a client would spend US$ 5T, Kintanar added.

In terms of human resources, the Philippines also has a comparative advantage as medical specialists are well-trained with most having post graduate training abroad and speak excellent English so there is no communication barrier while our health personnel have been described as being more compassionate and caring, Kintanar stressed.

In Cebu, Kintanar said they are hoping to jumpstart the campaign before the year ends although she admitted that most private medical institutions here are already advertising their various medical and surgical services on the website.

The international market clientele targeted by the Philippines include North America, Japan, South Korea, Middle East, Western Europe, China and even our overseas Filipino workers, this is learned.

Due to the rising costs of health care in the US, United Kingdom, Canada and Europe, the growth of medical tourism in Asia has emerged. Other factors that make medical tourism favorable to Asia including the Philippines apart from the increasing medical expenses in developed nations are the long waiting period of medical appointment in Europe, the improved medical technology in developing countries and the ease and affordability of international travel, Kintanar further said. (PIA-Cebu/FCR)

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