Phl needs to address hospital bed shortage
Ehda Dagooc (The Freeman) - September 5, 2014 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines - An official of a private hospital organization said that the Philippines must first address the problem on hospital bed shortage before it can position itself as a medical tourism destination.

"If we want to position the Philippines well as a medical tourism destination, especially with the coming Asean integration in 2015, then we are urging for more hospital investments as well as improvement of existing facilities," said Dr. Rusty Jimenez of the Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines (PHAP).

The organization is urging the government, as well as private capitalists to invest on additional 100 hospitals in the country or at least 100,000 more beds in the next three years to better facilitate the healthcare needs of Filipino patients.

"There is clearly a lack of hospitals in the Philippines, more so the number of hospital beds. We are a country of already 100 million people, that means ideally the bed to patient ratio is at one bed for every 1,000 patients," said Jimenez.

According to Jimenez, there are only 1,800 hospitals in the country both private and government-owned with a total bed capacity of 77,000.

Jimenez likewise criticized the government for being "too slow" in addressing the needs of the healthcare industry like building more state-run hospitals and upgrading medical equipment and facilities.

"This way, patients in far flung areas can avail of high quality medical services without having to go to the cities," he said.

Jimenez raised hopes that the Aquino administration will increase its allocation for the healthcare industry next year from the current 3.5 to four percent of the total gross domestic product up by five percent.

At present, Jimenez said the Philippines is not yet ready to invite medical tourists as the industry cannot even accommodate the needed bed to serve the Filipinos.

Besides, he said it’s too expensive to start an operation to attract the medical tourists from all over the world.

Meanwhile, although Cebu is yet to fully maximize its potential to capture a sizeable market for medical tourism, players here are starting to establish attractive products and services to lure the multi-million-dollar medical tourism market.

"We already have implemented unified packages but we are adding more activities,” said Cebu Health and Wellness Council (CHWC) vice chairperson Jenny Franco.

Aside from the huge “balikbayan” market, Cebu is gaining popularity to medical tourism market from Singapore, Bahrain, Australia, United States, and Europe.

In the US for instance, Filipino-Americans are the major clients for dental services in Cebu, as well as the American travelers, because most of them do not have dental insurance. Besides, dental services in the US are much expensive, compared to the rates offered here.

According to Franco the reason why Cebu is positioning to excel in attracting medical tourists, because “we mix our offerings with holiday and vacation packages. Cebu, after all is a holiday destination.”

Part of the packages is promoting Yoga and meditation, art lessons, she added.

According to the Philippine Institute for Development Studies, despite the effort of the private sector to make the country more attractive to medical tourists, the Philippines continues to get a miniscule share of the medical tourism markets even if it offers better prices specifically in surgical procedures than its Asian counterparts or competitors.

PIDS recommended that for the Philippines to improve its status in attracting medical tourists, it has to form a coordinating body (council or board) among offices and agencies involved in the medical tourism industry. A marketing campaign for the 21 premier hospitals included under the Philippine Medical Tourism Program (PMTP) must also be crafted and implemented. (FREEMAN)

CEBU CEBU HEALTH AND WELLNESS COUNCIL DEVELOPMENT STUDIES DR. RUSTY JIMENEZ OF THE PRIVATE HOSPITALS ASSOCIATION OF THE PHILIPPINES JENNY FRANCO JIMENEZ MEDICAL PHILIPPINE INSTITUTE PHILIPPINE MEDICAL TOURISM PROGRAM TOURISM
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