Medical tourism needs enhanced promotion
Last week, Viet Nam News asked readers about their experiences of trips to Viet Nam for medical procedures and measures to develop the country's medical tourism sector. Hear are some replies.
While the Viet Nam Olympics Committee is still waiting to hear the results of Viet Nam's bid to host the 18th Asian Games (ASIAD) in 2019, many people have already objected to the proposal.
Just two days after a local newspaper posted an internet poll on whether Viet Nam should bid to host the games, for an estimated US$150 million investment, more than 2,100 out of 4,600 people voted ‘no' while 1,600 others said Viet Nam should only host the regional games when the economy is better. Only 837 responded ‘yes'.
Some claimed that in the current economic situation, Viet Nam should use the money to invest in other social projects. Others said using sports to promote the country's image had become obsolete.
What do you think? From your country's experiences, what would be the impact and benefit of hosting a global or regional sporting event? Who would be the true beneficiaries of the event?
Given Viet Nam's current situation, would the country gain or lose if it attempts to win the bid?
Emails should be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org – or by fax to (84-4) 3 933 2311. Letters can be sent to The Editor, Viet Nam News, 11 Tran Hung Dao Street, Ha Noi. Replies to this week's questions must be received by Thursday morning, April 19.
Andrew Burden, Canadian, Ha Noi
I have been a ‘medical tourist' both here in Viet Nam and in Thailand. I had eye laser surgery years ago (on Christmas Day) in Bangkok, and I had a crown tooth installed about 4 years ago in HCM City. Both were a great success, and both turned out to be very economically priced.
Canada has universal health care, but an eye operation is considered elective - it is not necessary as I could wear glasses or get contact lenses. Dental care is not generally covered (unless through your employer). While teaching English in South East Asia (Taiwan and Viet Nam), I had the opportunity to read about this and consider my options.
I decided on Thailand as I read a news article in the Bangkok Post about, ironically enough, my Canadian city eye doctor having a co-operative venture with a Thai eye clinic. Add the cleanliness and the convenience of an operation while on Christmas Day holiday, and it was an easy choice. Viet Nam needs to promote and advertise its options and services.
Given your economic and socio-cultural status, Viet Nam is not an obvious choice.
In my opinion, most tourists will come to Viet Nam on vacation for the food, history and natural attractions. I admit that I did not consider Viet Nam to be in the running to compete in ‘medical tourism.'
I have come to realise that Viet Nam is now poised to become a regional — even world player — in this expanding market. But you need to educate the average, unsuspecting tourist and to advertise globally.
The dentist in HCM City spoke almost no English, but the service was immediate, relaxed and competent. For approximately the same price as a cleaning in Canada, I was outfitted with my new crown tooth.
I wholeheartedly encourage all foreigners to strongly consider getting a check up, get vaccinated (hepatitis, for example) and doing like I do and donate blood. The price is right. You will literally feel better as you save money while helping the local economy.
Viet Nam needs to do a few Youtube.com promotional videos and information sessions. I suggest you tap a ready-made market and select a few English language schools (there are hundreds of victims - I mean teachers-cum-potential patients waiting to be operated and experimented on).
My first school in HCM City had about 100 teachers (at one location). This potential pool of patients could serve as cultural and economic ambassadors for Viet Nam when they eventually return home.
I see a win-win situation. The foreigner is healthier at a great price, your country gets hard currency and simultaneously develops students while becoming a professional, world-class status medical tourism location.
Nguyen Thao, Vietnamese, Ha Noi
My friend's father often flies to Singapore and sometimes to China for cancer treatment.
He prefers these countries to Viet Nam because he believes that he will receive better medical treatment there, although it costs him a lot of money.
He is right. Vietnamese hospitals are too overcrowded.
Viet Nam is undeniably an attractive destination but foreign tourists come here to enjoy the natural beauty of the country rather than to have medical treatment, I think.
The reason may be that foreigners do not know much about medical tours in Viet Nam.
A foreign friend of mine who lived in Ha Noi for two years did not know that acupuncture was a traditional practice in Viet Nam until I told him. He thought it was practised in China only.
Tour operators and agencies should think about enhancing promotional activities. I think that cheap prices might be an advantage in Viet Nam.
Also, ideas are important to make tours attractive to tourists and for them to enjoy themselves while also receiving medical treatment.
Jan Standaert, French, HCM City
The figure of 40,000 people seeking medical aid outside of Viet Nam mentioned last week is even probably too low. And those who stay in Viet Nam do so because they cannot afford to travel abroad for treatment.
I have lived here as an expat for the past 19 years, and will (as soon as possible) go to France again for treatment.
Two months ago I had some unexpected heart trouble and went for treatment at a hospital in HCM City because I didn't have time to go abroad for treatment.
The place was beyond imagination and very dirty. My wife secured a place for the night with me in the same bed and we found that another person had sneaked in during the night, so we were three in the bed and under the bed were two woman sleeping on some cardboard.
Upon entering I told the nurse that I was allergic to penicillin and similar medicine only to find that after I got my injection my hands had swollen to double their size and were completely red and itchy. Sure enough I had received a dose of penicillin.
The services, cleanliness and attention to the needs of the patients are just as bad as 20 years ago. It would be funny if it were not so sad.
I don't want to blame the doctor's who are full of concern for their patients, but they have to struggle with a shortage of good equipment. It's sad.
Le Van Nhat, Vietnamese, Ha Noi
Last year I had a trip to the mountainous province of Son La. I was exhausted after a quite long journey from Ha Noi. Local people recommended that I should go to a natural hot spring at the nearby village to rest and restore my energy.
I decided to go there, dreaming of a relaxing time wallowing in hot water.
But I was totally disappointed.
The water was not hot as I expected and the bathroom was dirty with cobwebs. It seemed that the bathroom had not been cleaned for years. And there was no other tourist except for me.
I do not expect significant development of medical tourism in Viet Nam if things remain unchanged.
Cha Hyunson, Korean, Ha Noi
You should have a lot of promotion to develop medical tourism here in Viet Nam.
I myself have never heard about acupuncture and qigong in Viet Nam.
To make it known to foreign tourists, Viet Nam should promote cases of patients cured by acupuncture and qigong.
What's good here when compared with other countries like China, South Korea and Japan? This needs to be answered in promotion programmes — and you should have target groups and countries such as elderly people in certain countries, for instance. Promotions need to have a specific focus.
South Korea is a good example, as plastic surgery services there are already well known among Chinese and Japanese women. VietNam must carry out extensive studies for promotional activities if the medical sector is to be developed. — VNS