Curtis Palmer TSEA: Period 1 May 19, 2011 Benefits of Thailand‟s Medical Hub Policy “Back when I was in North Carolina my 53-year-old husband, Howard Stoop, was diagnosed with a broken Mitral valve. When we explained that Howard had no health care the doctor told us more bad news, that we would have to pay 100,000 us dollars up front for surgery and then 100,000 dollars later on for post-surgery treatment. Because neither Howard nor myself had even half of the money required for the surgery, I searched for alternatives. A few weeks later we flew to Thailand where my husband was able to have his heart surgery for more than half the price.” Medical tourism is when a somebody goes to a foreign country seeking medicalheath care for a cheaper price than it is in their own country, recently Thailand hasdeveloped into a desired medical destination for tourism from continents such as the US,Europe and wealthy Asian countries (Ji). The number of medical tourists has increasedfrom almost nil to 450,000 a year in less than a decade. The number of medical tourists inThailand is increasing at a yearly rate of 16% (NaRonong). Medical tourism is seen bymost countries as an opportunity to generate more national income. However, with outconsidering many variables medical tourism can become a problem for the public health-care systems (NaRonong). Although it can be argued that medical tourism does notbenefit all of Thailand, there are many positive aspects, such as social benefits, putting astop to the „brain drain‟ and economic improvement for the nation. There are several ways that Thailand‟s health care will benefit in the long runfrom medical tourism. Medical tourism in Thailand will inspire more doctors to train andsoon there will be enough doctors and physicians for both medical tourists and Thaicitizens (Fernquest). Tourists are usually more attracted to destinations with betternational health care. For example in the 2004 tsunami in Pukhet, Thailand‟s health carewas able to tend to all of the injuries caused by the natural disaster (Fernquest). By 2010medical graduates will increase from 1500 per year to 2300 per year and exceed the
number needed (NaRonong). Medical tourism is causing Thailand to have an over allimprovement on both public and private health care and will eventually lower the pricesof health care because hospitals will be competing to have the lowest price on the marketmaking health care more affordable for middle-class Thais. The Medical Hub policy is addressing the intentions of Thailand becoming themain destination for medical tourism; this is causing a brain drain and many of thedoctors to want to leave the government hospitals for a higher salary in private hospitalsleaving fewer doctors for the poor in the rural areas of Thailand (Chambers). Thehospitals that are successful in the medical tourism industry are luring all of the well-educated doctors, physicians and nurses. A full time physician would be able to see only14 to 16 foreign patients per day rather than seeing 40 to 48 local Thai patients(NaRonong). Thais who cannot afford to go to those hospitals will most likely be treatedwith less advanced health-care (NaRonong). Bangkok city already has 8 times as manydoctors per capita as the worst served rural areas meaning that their access to health careis not as efficient as it should be (Chambers). Private hospitals in other countries such asMalaysia and Singapore are competing with Thailand for this market of medical tourismmeaning that Thailand has to find a way to market their medical tourism to be known asthe very best destination for medical tourism (Fernquest). By having Thailand as a medical tourism Center it is hoped that Thai specialistdoctors will be attracted to work back in Thailand to save Thai doctors the trouble ofhaving to go to foreign countries to work (Chambers). Thai doctors are no less qualifiedthan foreign doctors who were educated in Europe and the US (Ji). For example DoctorChartChai Rattanamahattana graduated from medical school from Mahidol in 1982 andthen went to America to train for plastic surgeries in Los Angeles and Cleveland. DoctorChartChai has been on the Board Certified in Plastic Surgery since 1987 and has workingat Samitivej hospital since 1995. Hospitals that are successful in the medical tourismindustry are luring all of the well-educated doctors, physicians and nurses, back toThailand. All of the Thais who can go to these hospitals will be treated with advancedhealth care and can expect the best results possible. (NaRonong). In the Philippines there
there is a shortage of doctors and hospitals because of the brain drain of doctors and othermedical staff to foreign countries. Medical tourism is a solution to this problem because itwill give doctors a reason to stay in Thailand to provide health care for both Thai peopleand foreigners traveling to Thailand. Due to the incoming Foreigners, the standards of the Hotels and prices ofsurgeries have increased making it increasingly difficult for Thai middle class to affordprivate hospital treatment (Chambers). Well-known economist, AmmarSiamwalla isopposed to the plan and says that “Huge national health care would have to be invested inthis project and as a result only private hospital owners and staff would benefit(Fernquest).” salary of doctors in private hospitals is 9 times more than that of a doctor ina public hospital and this will cause more wage inflation in Thailand and will cause agreater gap between the rich and the poor (Chambers). Thailand may become too relianton the medical tourism income and there are many risks that come with relying on oneaspect of an income (Ji). In 2010 the news blew the Red Shirt protest news out ofproportion and it made a lot of tourists scared to come to Thailand. Political protests andnatural disasters can cause tourists to stop coming to Thailand so the Thai economycannot become to reliant on tourism as their primary income. Medical tourism helps generate income for the medical sector, the tourist sectorand all other related businesses (NaRonong). In 2008, medical tourism in Thailandgenerated 50 billion baht of revenue from medical services plus 12 to 13 billion fromother related tourism meaning medical tourism is an important part of Thailand‟s incomeand these values are estimated to increase significantly over the coming years(NaRonong). Thaksin called for establishing Thailand as a leader in international medicaltourism.Medical tourism generates an approximated value equal to 0.4% of the GDP, andmedical tourism helps raise the income of the medical sector and all related services suchas hotels. He believed it would bring huge financial gains to the country (Chambers). By2015 it is predicted that medical tourism will bring in 100 billion baht ($3.3bn)(Chambers).