The coming boom in medical tourism

Published by rudy Date posted on May 28, 2009

Before the end of 2009, St. Luke’s Medical Center will open the P9-billion 600-bed St. Luke’s Medical Center hospital at the Bonifacio Global City in Taguig.

St. Luke’s Taguig is the sister hospital of St. Luke’s Quezon City, regarded as, probably—the best hospital in the Philippines today and one of the best in the world. St. Luke’s is better-equipped than 95 percent of hospitals in the United States.

The hospital will cater to two main markets—the booming Makati Central Business District and the international market or medical tourism.

In 2007 alone, some 750,000 Americans traveled abroad and spent $2.1 billion to seek medical care. By 2017, more than 15 million Americans will seek medical services in other countries and spend between $30 billion and $79 billion.

By next year, global medical tourism is projected to be worth $100 billion, up from $60 billion in 2007.

The Deloitte Center for Health Solutions defines medical tourism as the process of leaving home for treatments and care abroad. This phenomenon will show explosive growth, for two reasons:

One, the safety and quality of care in many offshore settings like the Philippines is no longer an issue.

Two, rising health care costs in home countries. The high cost of medical care is eating into corporate profits and household disposable income. Yet, the same medical care, in quality and expertise, is available—abroad—for half or even a fourth of the cost.

The Philippines is a natural for medical tourism. The country has among the world’s best doctors, nurses and health care providers. Filipinos, by nature, are warm, friendly, and caring. They speak English, the language of medicine and patients. And a number of Philippine hospitals are highly regarded abroad.

A strong medical tourism industry will create jobs, help alleviate poverty, and boost the Philippines as an excellent place for doing business and for retiring.

St. Luke’s is home to some of the best Filipino medical scientists, doctors and specialists. Many have undergone rigid training under world-renowned experts in hospitals and universities abroad.

St. Luke’s is the only Philippine hospital twice accredited by the Joint Commission International, or JCI—in 2003 and in 2006. It is the first to be accredited in the Philippines by JCI and the only one re-accredited. Accreditation validates St. Luke’s claim as one of the world’s best.

St.Luke’s at the Fort will be state-of-the-art—with 374 doctors’ clinics, parking for 1,265 cars; and ten institutes, one each for Heart, Cancer, Neurosciences, Digestive and Liver Diseases, Eye, Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, Pathology, Pulmonary Medicine, Radiology, and Pediatrics and Child Health.

Standing on a 1.6-hectare prime land, the new hospital has 18 operating rooms, five caesarian section and delivery rooms, imaging suites, critical care units, cardiac catheriterization lab, ob-gynecology, and post-anesthetic care unit.

Accordingly, St. Luke’s at the Fort has sought registration with the Philippine Economic Zone Authority as a medical tourism park. It is the second hospital to do so. The first was the St. Francis Cabrini in Batangas City, which bills itself as medical facility for cancer patients and for the Japanese market.

PEZA-registered medical tourism parks enjoy a host of incentives, including the payment of a special 5-percent tax on gross income, in lieu of all national and local taxes.

Additionally, they enjoy four years of income tax holiday on profits solely derived from servicing foreign patients. After the four-year ITH or income tax holiday, the medical tourism parks will just pay a 5-percent gross income tax on income solely derived from servicing foreign patients, in lieu of all national and local taxes.

As a PEZA firm, St. Luke’s can also import medical equipment, including spare parts and equipment supplies, duty-free. As a medical tourism center, it will be allowed to employ foreign nationals subject to existing laws.–Tony Lopez, Manila Times

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