medical tourism #1

Medical tourism in SA to grow

Medical tourism is an emerging industry that is seeing a lot of growth in South Africa. With world-class doctors and facilities specialising in affordable procedures, a weak currency that allows for low-cost treatment options, and wide range of natural beauty and tourist attractions on offer, Cape Town is becoming the destination of choice for medical travellers from all over the globe.

Janine Erasmus in her recent article for Media Club South Africa wrote,
“South Africa has a proud medical track record, and now that record is to be enhanced as medical tourism swings into high gear.
Government plans to market the country as a cost-effective international destination for this lesser-known sector of the industry.
By the end of 2009, according to Deputy Tourism Minister Tokozile Xasa, a national strategy for medical tourism will be complete.
Xaba was speaking at the inaugural South African Health Tourism Congress, held in Johannesburg in July 2009 with the aim of further entrenching the medical tourism industry in South Africa.”

“While tourism’s contribution to the economy has doubled from 4.6% in 1993 to 8.5% in 2008, said Xaba, leisure tourism is reaching saturation point. This gives other tourism sectors the chance to develop.
The 1-million-plus people working in the tourism sector, she added, accounted for 7.4% of the country’s total employment figure.
Medical Tourism Association president Renee-Marie Stephano delivered the congress’s keynote address. In order to bring future patients into the country, she said, it is essential to have a well-established healthcare cluster aimed at tourists. Here, properly accredited medical professionals, hospitals and clinics, medical tourism providers and government can work together to promote the medical tourism sector.
This is especially important because the South African Medical Association currently prohibits brokers from making recommendations to patients, and also prevents doctors from openly or indirectly marketing their services.
Of the 9.5-million foreign visitors to South Africa in 2008, said Xaba, it is believed that about 410 000, or 4.3%, were medical tourists. These tend to be well-off people who can afford to travel abroad to meet their medical needs.
But there is room in the country’s clinics for more than twice this number, said congress chair Cawe Mahlati, advocate and CEO of Gauteng Tourism. South Africa can accommodate up to 1-million medical tourists, she said, and this makes it one of the destinations of choice for those about to undergo medical and cosmetic procedures.”

For those that can afford it, medical procedures in developing countries like South Africa, India and Thailand are the way to go. As opposed to the hefty US price tag of $130 000 (R1-million) for a heart bypass, for instance, the same procedure in Thailand costs $11 000 (R88 000). South African prices fall between the two extremes.
The country has the added advantage of English as one of its official languages, which is important because it promotes transparency.

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