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Observations Border Crossing

The medical travellers’ tale

BMJ 2008; 337 doi: (Published 03 December 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a2829
  1. Tessa Richards, assistant editor, BMJ
  1. trichards{at}

    So far health tourism is a small market, but it is set to stimulate welcome competition

    It’s midwinter, and you are contemplating non-essential surgery. Might you be tempted to travel to sunnier climes for it? Singapore Medicine no doubt hopes so, and if you read the information package this private hospital group puts out you will note suggestions for spare time. Think “relaxing in tropical tranquillity.” But it denies it is in the business of “sprinkling health care on vacations.” Its aim is to become Asia’s leading healthcare destination.

    It is not alone in this ambition. Over the past decade equally impressive new hospitals have opened in India, Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines and also in South America and the Middle East. Not everyone has welcomed them. Some argue that they lure medical staff away from the public sector and cater only to a privileged elite.

    Last month the Health Alliance for Democracy in the Philippines protested against its government’s “continued investment in tourism,” asserting that it “left public hospitals and government run health facilities wallowing in a state of disrepair.” The counter view is that the Philippines is …

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