Singapore lures Middle East health tourists

Singapore offers quality, efficient health care

A recent report stating that the number of patients travelling to Singapore for medical treatment has risen 20 per cent in 2006, goes on to show that the Lion City has once again successfully held its place as the health tourism destination for patients across the globe.

The report stated that an average of 200 people seeking medical care from the Middle East visited Singapore each month in 2006, showing an increase of 20 per cent over last year.
This continues on the growth achieved by the country in the previous year, when an estimated 374,000 international patients visited Singapore – an increase of 15 per cent on the previous year.
To help raise awareness of Singapore’s medical system, and also to highlight the world-class facilities, delivery and care offered by the Southeast Asian state, the country sent forth a delegation of healthcare companies and leading doctors to attend the Arab Health Exhibition in Dubai.
Singapore sent its largest ever delegation of doctors and government health figures to attend the event, with the number of participating companies increased by a third on the previous year. On display at the Singapore Pavilion was a range of facilities and expertise offered in the country.
“Singapore is at the forefront of medical care and has a world-class healthcare system offering the most advanced treatments by leading medical professionals,” said Ke-Wei Peh, area director for the Middle East and Africa, Singapore Tourism Board.
Ranked by the World Health Organization as having the best health system in Asia ahead of Japan and the US, the nation has first-rate health care with a multitude of specialised, expert treatments in key areas such as haematology, cardiology, ophthalmology and oncology.
“Increasingly we are seeing more people from the Arab world visit Singapore for medical treatment. As part of a multi-faith and multi-cultural society where 15 per cent of the population is Muslim, we are very familiar with the specific requirements in care and service that Arab nationals desire. It is not a matter of cost that leads patients to Singapore but the availability of excellent surgery and medical procedures unavailable anywhere else in the world,” added Peh.
Such is the demand for information about medical treatment in Singapore for patients from the Middle East, a number of dedicated organisations have been established to facilitate healthcare tourism, said a spokesman for the organiser.
“Singapore healthcare companies have been working with partners from the region and beyond to provide a holistic approach to healthcare development and delivery, from healthcare services, patient care, medical travel services, operations management, medical devices and equipment manufacturing, as well as healthcare technology,” he added.
The country’s success in becoming one of the most pioneering and developed healthcare systems in the world providing medical procedures and surgery – which only a few countries specialise in, such as stem cell transplants, living donor liver transplants and advanced robotic surgery – has been attributed for its penchant for technology and an unparalleled work ethic.
All through last year, several of the healthcare facilities in the country have witnessed an expansion in the facilities and also the induction of new technology to meet the growing demands for specialised, cost-effective and quality healthcare.
As part of the effort, the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) has announced plans to develop a neuroscience centre, which is expected to make brain and spinal surgery easier, cheaper and more accurate.
The centre will allow surgeons to look at precise images of a patient’s brain before, during and immediately after surgery – making it easier to decide whether further procedures are needed.
An agreement to set up the digitally integrated centre by the end of the year was signed by Singapore Health Services and German company BrainLAB. Described as a ‘neurosurgeon’s dream’, it will be the world’s first integrated neuroscience centre.
The country is also attempting to develop an East-West healthcare model through forging ties with China, which will further strengthen its status as a leading healthcare provider.
Parkway Group Healthcare, one of Singapore’s leading hospitals has also unveiled that it is expanding its services both in Singapore and overseas to meet the growing demand.
The hospital is building a new intensive care ward with 10 beds for bone marrow transplant patients in Mount Elizabeth Hospital, and a new ward with 18 beds for liver patients in Gleneagles Hospital. Both wards are expected to be ready sometime soon. Last year, it also set up two new patient referral centres – one in Cairo, Egypt, and the other in Lagos, Nigeria – increasing the number of centres to 40.
It plans to set up at least six more in India, Russia and Saudi Arabia.
by Vikas Kumar