EDITORIAL — Medical tourism

() - January 25, 2008 - 12:00am

Thailand has its spas offering the distinctive Thai massage. The Chinese have their ancient medical tradition; the Singaporeans have world-class medical facilities. The Indians have their Ayurvedic health care tradition and are also competitive in modern medical services.

The healing arts have become major tourist draws. The Philippines may be a latecomer to the game, but it can still catch up with other Asian countries in medical tourism. The attractions in this competition include not just cosmetic procedures, folk medicine and relaxing spas but also general medical services that have become too expensive in prosperous countries. Westerners are going to Asia not just for liposuction but also for open-heart surgery, organ transplants and cancer treatment.

Health officials said the Philippines earned about $300 million in the past two years from medical tourism. The best guarantee of earning even more is by maintaining high standards in the quality of medical services. With the best quality and innovative approaches to health care, that $300 million can even be surpassed.

This should not be too difficult to do considering the quality of the country’s health professionals. Every year the country sends thousands of health workers overseas, and they cannot get those jobs without the requisite skills. If the country becomes a top destination for medical tourism, it could even stem the exodus of doctors, nurses and other health professionals for better-paying jobs overseas.

Once quality is compromised, the road to recovery is tortuous. This is especially true of health services and consumer safety. If the government wants to promote the country as a top destination for medical tourism, it should compliment its marketing push with an aggressive campaign to uphold high standards in the quality of medical services. By all means, the government should promote medical tourism, but it should make sure the country will offer only the best.

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