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Editorial | Hub for medical tourism

Filipinos are known as great caregivers the world over as shown in the biggest source of brain drain in the country – nurses, doctors and all other professions in the medical industry. This is not to mention how we are desired in other countries as domestic helpers and au pairs, known as we are by our loyalty and strong empathy to the people we serve.

Over the past decade, medical tourism has been discussed as a possible draw for foreigners who will not only be receiving the best care but enjoy the beauty the country has to offer. Somehow, this discussion only comes out to light briefly, then fades into the recesses of our minds as urgent concerns on health and tourism are brought to the discussion board.

The Department of Tourism, in its website, claimed that the country is a growing “destination of choice for health and vacation because of our world class physicians, modern technology, and our uniquely Filipino brand of caring and compassion at great values for money with only a fraction of the cost in developed countries.” The department said that we have “some of the best hospitals and stand-alone specialty clinics in the world, offering world-class expertise, state-of-the-art facilities, topped with the distinct warmth of the famous Filipino hospitality. We also have some of the world’s best spa retreat resorts and tour destinations in this part of the earth.”

Even the Department of Health has a vision for medical tourism which is to be “the global leader in providing quality health care for all through universal health care.” Its mission is “to ensure that the Philippines is globally competitive through implementation of quality standards in both public and private sector.”

How do we do this in real life? Small steps could be done to land us in the map of the world’s huge medical tourism industry.

Asst. Secretary Romeo Montenegro of the Mindanao Development Authority said last Monday that in this part of the economic growth area, our medical industry is more advanced compared to our neighbor Manado in Indonesia. He pointed out that with the twice-weekly Davao-Manado direct flight, we could entice people from Manado to come as our hospitals have advanced medical facilities and can provide more medical services. Distance is also factored in as it only takes an hour and a half to reach Davao than the three hours flight from Manado to Jakarta.

The tourism and health sectors may want to pilot medical tourism in Mindanao, riding on the 25 years of collaboration among the cities within the BIMP East ASEAN Growth Area. Still, the devil is in the details. Maybe Minda will take a lead role in this initiative.

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