Hospitals eyes patients from Europe, urge govt support
The hospitals joining Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's mission to Sweden and Belgium next month hope to explore more markets in Europe for patients and retirees to come to Thailand for medical care as well as home stays.
Dr Boon Vanasin, chairman of Thonburi Hospital Group, said yesterday that people in Scandinavia and Europe enjoy good medical welfare, but they find difficulty in getting admitted to hospitals or even making an appointment with a doctor, so some of them fly to Thailand instead for medical treatment at private hospitals here.
The government should promote "medical outsourcing", especially for non-serious cases such as bone surgery and other minor operations.
"The government should seek cooperation with the Swedish and Belgium governments in sending their retired people, who have no one to take care of them, to make a home in Thailand, while their governments will take care of the bills charged by local private hospitals.
"They should reduce the time and open special channels in issuing visas to those patients. The validity of visas for local treatment in Thailand should be extended from three months now to one year or longer so that patients can recover their health and undergo physical therapy," he said.
Such government-to-government cooperation should include exchanges of lecturers and students in medical science, the development of medical knowledge and the dispatching of experts to make suggestions on financial management to the National Health Security Office, so they can deliver the most efficient service to the people.
"It's a good thing that the Thai government has given support to the health tourism industry as it will create opportunities for local hospitals to expand to the European market. Thonburi Hospital Group has more than 20 hospitals in Bangkok and the provinces, especially in major tourist destinations such as Pattaya and Phuket, and such health tourism will bring a lot of income to the country," he added.
Dr Supot Sumritvanitcha, director of Yanhee International Hospital, said the hospital's objective in participating in the prime minister's roadshow is to learn about the latest medical technology and equipment in Europe. The hospital had used medical equipment from Germany and Korea.
It also wants to attract individual patients from Sweden to Thailand, especially for joint and bone surgery. Sweden is a winter country and many people suffer from arthritis.
"We don't think we can get more patients immediately after this first roadshow, but we aim to grow the market in the future. We want to introduce ourselves to potential European customers as the No 1 surgery centre in Asia with turnkey services. We can offer 10 times cheaper than those in Europe and the US. We already have had some patients from Germany and Australia," he said.