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RP set to cash in on medical tourism boom PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 13 November 2006

MANILA, Nov. 12 (PNA) -- The Philippines is set to cash in on medical tourism, a booming multi-billion dollar global industry that is beginning to make waves in the country’s healthcare sector.

In his column "The View from the Palace" which comes out tomorrow (Monday), Press Secretary and Presidential Spokesman Ignacio R. Bunye said medical tourism may just be the solution to the "brain drain" arising from the exodus of Filipino doctors and other health professionals to foreign countries in search of the proverbial greener pastures.

Bunye said that in a recent meeting in Malacanang, Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Chair Carlito Puno told the Cabinet that "for every three doctors who leave the country every year for greener pastures, our medical schools can only produce two doctors, or a net drain of one doctor every year."

"The simplistic solution would be to produce more doctors. The more creative solution would be to nurture conditions that will induce the doctors as well as other health professionals, to stay in the Philippines. Over the long term, we might just have that kind of solution: medical tourism," he added.

Bunye explained that due to rising costs of health care in industrialized countries, more and more patients are turning to medical tourism to address their medical needs.

He pointed out that a lasik surgery, for instance, can be done in the Philippines for around US$ 800 while a similar operation abroad would cost US$ 2,000.

A lasik is a surgical procedure intended to reduce a person’s dependency on glasses or contact lenses.

"Blepharoplasty, or a procedure that widens the contour of the eyes and is popular among the Koreans and Japanese, costs only P150,000 here but costs roughly US$ 10,000 or P500,000 in their countries," Bunye said.

He pointed out that the Philippines has a formidable listing of "prime private medical institutions" such as Asian Hospital, Makati Medical Center, Medical City, St. Luke’s Medical Center, Cardinal Santos Medical Center that employ A-1 medical staff competent enough to perform complex medical procedures such as heart valve replacements, orthodental services, knee replacements to electives such as lasik ad cosmetic surgery.

"Indeed, medical tourism offers very bright prospects not only for the country in general but also for the medical and other health practitioners in particular. In fact, on our first year of medical tourism, the Philippines earned, by (Health) Secretary (Francisco) Pingcoy Duque III’s estimates, in the neighborhood of US$ 200 million," Bunye said.

"Bouyed by its initial success, the Philippines is now poised to go for a bigger share of the booming market. On November 20-21, the DoH will hold the first Medical Tourism Congress and Exposition to showcase the very best providers of healthcare and wellness. It should be a very interesting expo," Bunye said.

He added that aside from the medical tourism industry, the Philippines can also cash in on the growing retirement industry which is expected to bring in some 500,000 to three million retiring Filipino-Americans from 2010 to 2020.

He said President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has already made preparations by "investing in vital infrastructure projects that would make the country’s retirement industry attractive."

"The two projects – medical tourism and retirement homes – should be right in our alley. After all, we have among the best doctors, nurses, caregivers in the world. And we also have among the best medical facilities," Bunye said. (PNA)

 

 
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