Have a holiday at a hospital!

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Even though the 14th Great Singapore Sale ends on July 22, Singapore does not lack tricks to lure more Indonesian tourists. Aside from attracting shoppers, this island-state has intensified the promotion of its health services.

Singapore offers health services, complete with competent doctors and paramedics and the latest diagnostic and treatment facilities. Relying only on these assets, Singapore can lure visitors not only from Indonesia but also from the other countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

Don’t be mistaken, though. Although Singapore offers complete and top health services, the rates are comparable to those in the patients’ home countries.

That’s Singapore’s competitive edge: it can offer top services at highly competitive rates. That’s why no fewer than 200,000 people from various countries visit Singapore for medical treatment. According to the Singapore Tourism Board, no fewer than 150,000 people travel to Singapore for medical treatment each year. They hail from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Philippines, the United States, the Middle East and Indonesia. Surprising, the highest number come from Indonesia.

Singapore has beautified itself to the optimum to lure tourists and earn foreign exchange. Among the tourists are those who go to Singapore, which has a population of 4.3 million, for medical treatment.

Efforts have been made to develop state and private hospitals, improve hospital management, the skills of doctors and other supporting health personnel, increase investment in the latest medical equipment, establish biomedical research centers and so forth. Of course, all this is not intended solely to serve the country’s population but also to lure people from other countries to visit under the “medical tour” program.

Interestingly, people who visit for medical treatment make their reservations like ordinary tourists. Prospective patients can make reservations from their home countries through international medical service centers at various hospitals. They can consult a center about their ailments and be advised as to which specialized clinic to visit. They are also informed of the estimated hospital charges prior to departure to Singapore.

The hospitals considered favorite “tourism destinations” are National Healthcare Group (NHG) and Singapore Health Services (SingHealth) and their networks. These two groups of hospitals are almost equally luxurious in their facilities. Their rooms are spotlessly clean. The architectural design is a modern minimalist design with soft and bright colors. The ambience is suitable for tourists.

When a patient stays at a hospital like this, he not only convalescences but also gains a fresher mind. The term “tourist” is more suitable than “patient”. One hospital in Phuket, Thailand, offers “medical treatment” that would be better termed spa treatment. Indeed, the hospital offers a package for a holiday that includes plastic surgery, starting from liposuction to cosmetic surgery.

Phuket — as well as Chiang Mai and Bangkok — are havens for high-end people to reshape their bodies. They are served like kings and queens at private hospitals that look more like resorts. These hospitals are staffed with specialist doctors in various areas. As for food and language, these two pose no problem. Just like at exclusive holiday resorts, tourists can order any food they like. Almost all hospitals have nurses who have mastered a foreign language, such as Malay, Mandarin, Japanese, Arabic and English.

Not to be left behind by Thailand, Malaysia is also intensifying it promotion for medical tours. At present, many hospitals offer a holiday package that includes medical treatment. In Malaysia there are a number of international-class hospitals such as Island Hospital, Adventist Hospital, Mount Miriam Hospital, Lam Wah Ee Hospital, Gleneagles Medical Center and Loh Guan Lye Specialists Center in Penang. All offer various medical packages, ranging from a mere general checkup, critical surgery such as cardiac and oncological surgery and other internal diseases, to the handling of degenerative diseases, which are also referred to as the ailments of modern man.

If you have an eye problem, such as myopia or hyperopia, you can go to Island Hospital, for example, for i-Laser, a lasik treatment gaining great popularity. Eye surgery using laser technology makes it possible for far-sighted people, for example, to throw away their glasses or contact lenses. As part of a lifestyle, said Nora Hamid, head of PR/marketing department of Island Hospital, lasik, which can give one a new appearance, is a favorite eye treatment. Most patients come from Indonesia, she said.

Besides eye treatment, the demand for cosmetic surgery, for example, continues to increase although it is not as strong as the demand for other forms of medical treatment. That’s why, Nora went on, Island Hospital is developing services linked with appearance and lifestyle, such as plastic surgery, dental treatment and reconstruction and so forth.

It is not difficult for hospitals in Malaysia to offer beauty services in an integrated way, especially since expert doctors and the equipment are available. Island Hospital has specialist doctors and the latest medical equipment. Its CT-scanner, for example, can read a body layer by layer, starting from the top of the head to the toes, therefore ensuring that any disease in a person’s body is detected. In the operating theater unit, there are three rooms, each with different air pressure. The main room leading to the ICU ward, for example, is bacteria-free. The medical equipment is modern and uses the laser method so that surgery has become not only easy to perform but also neat.

Are you ready to go on a medical tour? (Burhan Abe)

The Jakarta Post – July 19, 2007

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