|A multi-slice scanner in use at HCM City’s Chợ Rẫy Hospital. The hospital now takes in over 20,000 foreign patients a year.— VNA/VNS Photo Hoàng Hải|
HCM CITY — With a growing number of medical tourists who combine travel with medical care coming to HCM City in recent years, lucrative medical tourism needs concerted efforts by various official agencies and travel firms to realise its huge potential, experts have said.
In the past decade there has been a global explosion in medical tourism, and Asia has become a popular destination, Tăng Chí Thượng, deputy director of the HCM City Department of Health, said.
With highly skilled and experienced physicians, state-of-the-art facilities and advanced medical technologies as well as reasonably-priced services, many public and private hospitals reported a consistent increase in the number of foreign patients from the US, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Laos, Cambodia and Africa, Thượng said.
“Vietnamese physicians are highly competent in comparison with their peers in the region.”
A cardiac surgery in Việt Nam costs around US$3,000, just one third of that in Singapore.
Dental care, cosmetic surgeries, cardiology, traditional medicine and acupuncture, and artificial insemination are among the medical services that have attracted many foreigners from not only Laos and Cambodia but also Europe and America, according to Thượng.
Nguyễn Đức Minh, director of the HCM City Hospital of Odonto-Stomatology, said the number of overseas Vietnamese and foreign patients at the hospital was growing at 10 per cent a year.
"Around 500 overseas Vietnamese and foreigners get work on their teeth done at our hospital every year," he said.
In 2014, the figure was only 300.
“High-quality dental care services meeting international standards and reasonable prices are the advantages enjoyed by the country’s dental industry.”
Vũ Trí Thanh, head of the HCM City University Medical Centre’s general planning department, said the number of foreign patients at the hospital had been rising by 4,000 every year for the past few years, hitting 22,000 last year.
“To meet the rising demand, the hospital will soon open two examination rooms to exclusively serve foreign patients.”
It also plans to build a new 20-storey building to provide health checks and treatment for foreign patients.
Chợ Rẫy Hospital and FV Hospital get around 1,200 and 20,000 foreign patients a year.
Huỳnh Nguyễn Lộc, director of the HCM City Institute of Traditional Medicine, said his hospital got thousands of tourists from the US and Europe who combine travel with treatment or come for traditional medicine courses.
"Some foreign firms sell packages for US$10,000, which include medical courses at our institute, accommodation, meals, and tours," Lộc said.
“Domestic travel firms have failed to explore co-operation opportunities to serve these medical tourists who are willing to pay high costs.”
Travel firms said medical tourism had yet to achieve a brand of reliability in terms of both quality of treatment and patients’ trust.
Qualified hospitals and clinics needed to get international accreditation and certification to gain patients’ trust that they would get quality medical care, Phan Đình Huê, director of Viet Circle Travel and Service Co. Ltd, said.
Experts said there should be efficient marketing and promotion programmes for medical tourism to attract more foreigners.
The Department of Health last Friday signed a co-operation agreement with the Department of Tourism to develop five types of medical tourism related to dental treatment, traditional medicine, cosmetic surgery, general health consultation and check-ups, and diagnosis of certain diseases such as heart diseases and cancer.
The agreement, the first of its kind, will serve as a foundation for the growth of medical tourism in the city.
The city is set to release a list of hospitals and clinics accredited by the Department of Health for tourists’ benefit by the end of this year. — VNS