PHUKET: For thousands of Chinese tourists who flock to Phuket each year, a visit to the island is more than just a chance to relax in the sun. It’s a chance to access medical procedures and treatments not available in their home country.
Many countries around the globe have the same pressing healthcare issues: aging populations, increasing medical costs, collapsing welfare systems. But where other places struggle, Phuket benefits.
Thanyapura Phuket, one of the island’s key medical service providers for tourists, has observed a steady growth in demand from foreign visitors, especially those from China.
“We have been working with Chinese patients since July 2013. We first started with 100-150
patients each month, but now we serve as many as 400,” Michael Klentze, chief scientific and medical officer at Thanyapura Health, told the Phuket Gazette during a special Hilton Phuket Arcadia Resort & Spa event to welcome 800 Chinese tourists.
“They mostly come for various kinds of hormonal therapy. During our checkups we detect issues such as heart problems, breast cancer, diabetes and more.”
Dr Klentze notes that the hormonal therapies combined with stem-cell therapy treatments and advanced diagnostics are all part of the preventative procedures offered by Thanyapura Health.
While such procedures have been available in the West for decades, they are still relatively scarce China.
“When it comes to medicine, China is still quite underdeveloped. Also, the thinking is completely different. I’ve had Chinese patients who were diagnosed with diabetes two years earlier and told quite simply by their doctors that their lives would be cut short,” explains Dr Klentze, adding that while China still lacked expertise in preventative medicine, in larger cities like Beijing access to modern medical procedures was improving.
According to Dian Ying, who heads the travel agency in China which partners with Thanyapura, the relatively inexpensive cost of medical procedures in Phuket is not the only attraction.
“Compared with China, the treatment here is about half the price, which certainly makes it attractive, but the real issue is the lack of availability of these treatments,” says Dian.
This, together with the island’s holiday appeal and convenient location, is turning Phuket into a prime medical tourism hub for the Chinese market.
With packages costing up to US$5,000 per person, Chinese medical tourism is turning out to be a profitable one. However, it is also logistically complex, with hundreds of lab samples to be
processed and the need for additional doctors to take care of large groups.
“We are currently processing as many as 1,200 patients at a time and will surpass that number by next year,” says Dr Klentze. “Plans are already in motion to build a new clinic to cope with the influx.”
— Maciek Klimowicz