The phenomenon of tens of thousands of wealthy Burmese seeking medical treatment abroad was spotlighted by a travel trade magazine which last week warned of the inadequacy of Burma’s health care for tourists.
“You don’t want to get sick in Mandalay or any other city in [Burma],” TTR Weekly advised in a report on the ease of flying now to Burma’s second-largest city from Thailand.
“Medical tourism is booming in Mandalay in an outbound direction. It all goes by airlines to Bangkok where the lucky patients check in the city’s top private hospitals and pay a premium to regain their health,” said the report.
“The rest of Mandalay’s population is in a pickle public health-wise and so are tourists if they haven’t bothered with travel insurance.”
Burma’s poor hospital and medical infrastructure may present problems for foreigners visiting the country, but it is boosting business enormously for Bangkok’s booming private hospitals industry by netting tens of millions of dollars a year from wealthy Burmese seeking treatment they cannot get at home.
Bangkok Hospital Group (BHG) says it handled 22,200 patients from Burma in 2012. This year to date, the number of Burmese passing through BHG’s hospitals is up more than 40 percent, said the company’s international marketing director Ralf Krewer.
And that perhaps shouldn’t be too surprising: BHG has 13 promotional offices across Burma to cater to the surging health care demand.
“Unfortunately, at the moment [Burma’s] health care system is not that developed as, for example, in Thailand, so for us [Burma] was a very obvious target to enter at a very early point and we were very successful in doing so,” Krewer said.
“Burma is now [our] biggest foreign market worldwide.”
Burmese are going to Thailand for both preventative health care treatment and for surgery to treat existing problems. They are seeking treatment for cancer, heart ailments and orthopedic problems such as hip replacements.
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