Thailand was one of the first countries to recognise the potential of medial tourism. The country built up a number of highly successful operators, including Bangkok Dusit, which owns hospitals including the Samitivej and BNH in Bangkok, and Bumrumgrad, the market leader.
But the industry has recently been squeezed. Many of their international patients have deferred elective surgery since the onset of the financial crisis; new competitors such as Singapore, India, South Korea and Taiwan are muscling in on the action; and a new generation of local Thai hospitals are providing a similar but cheaper, simpler service to the domestic market.
The medical sector is also gearing up for a change in ownership rules that are due to come in 2012, when the cap on foreign shareholdings will rise from its current level of 49 per cent to 70 per cent as the region moves towards the Asean Economic Community.
Bangkok Dusit Medical Services (BGH), the country’s largest hospital group, has agreed to buy the Phyathai Hospital and the Paolo Memorial Hospital chains from Health Network Group in a 12.6-billion-baht deal that would turn it into the second largest hospital group in Asia-Pacific excluding Japan.
The acquisition will turn BGH into a top regional player once the takeover is completed in the second quarter of next year, said BGH chairman Prasert Prasarttong-Osoth.
The merger will add eight facilities – four each from the Phyathai Hospital group and the Paolo group – to BGH’s network, bringing the total to 27. It will run a total of 4,639 registered beds, treating 20,000 outpatients a day.
BGH, whose customers tend mainly to be high-income earners and foreigners, now operates 19 hospitals (17 of which are in Thailand and the rest in Cambodia), with 2,992 registered beds and more than 10,000 outpatients per day at the moment.