House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. during a gathering of health professionals in Manila, said doctors should not to leave out the millions of Filipinos in their efforts to outdo their competitors in Asia in the fast evolving and growing arena of medical tourism
Manila: Efforts by the country to outdo other Asian countries in the field of medical tourism should not be endeavoured by the government at the expense of ordinary Filipinos needing medical attention, a senior lawmaker said.
House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. during a gathering of health professionals in Manila, said doctors should not to leave out the millions of Filipinos in their efforts to outdo their competitors in Asia in the fast evolving and growing arena of medical tourism.
"Growth and development of medical tourism should never leave out the millions of Filipinos who, despite and perhaps because of their economic status, are the ones most in need of medical attention and care," Belmonte stressed.
The growth of medical tourism had been encouraged by the past administration in an effort to bring in more visitors to the country who are ready to spend for treatments. But several years after the programme was adopted, the country is left wondering whether it had been proper for the government to promote the country as a destination where foreign patients can get modern medical treatment and procedures performed, at less cost.
"The immense potential of the medical tourism is readily apparent," Belmonte said during 2nd Annual National convention of the Hospital Association of the Philippines.
But he also said that the country may be focusing too much on getting tourists at the expense of locals who require the same attention.
"There is a set of imperatives that cannot be overlooked in this evolutionary trend in hospitals - one that relates to the accessibility of medical to local residents, especially the poor and disadvantaged," Belmonte stressed.
In the same breath, Belmonte cautioned against health worker brain drain from public to private medical institutions experienced in countries like Thailand.
"The more lucrative employment in private hospitals especially those that cater to medical tourism - is siphoning experienced medial health workers from government-run hospitals, creating an imbalance in the quality of health care provided within one jurisdiction," he said.
The Speaker noted that countries like Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore have each established a niche market - Thailand for cosmetic surgery and sex change operations; and Singapore for high end treatment like cardiovascular and neurological surgery and stem cell therapy.
He also noted ethical issues, like organ sale, that accompany the development of medical tourism. But the most important imperative that hospitals and every medical practitioner must address is "foremost, the guarantee of quality health care to everyone, without discrimination, and beyond that, special care for the less privileged and disadvantaged.".
"In the end, hospitals, medical practitioners and health care providers are the first phalanx in the defence and promotion of our people's health. It is to them therefore that we raise the appeal of equity amidst the lure of success in the highly competitive field of medical tourism," Belmonte stressed.