ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Thai medical hub benefits defended
Chaisith Viriyamettakul, managing director of Vibhavadi Hospital, questioned the government's action while state hospitals are substandard.
"Right now, are the services provided by the government accessible to the public?" asked Mr. Chaisith, adding that lower government support would result in higher costs for private hospitals, making it a burden for consumers.
"If the government is ready to provide services for all classes, it can scrap the plan [to promote Thailand as a medical service hub]. However, currently [people] are being treated differently," he said.
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Monday advised the Board of Investment (BoI) to suspend its plan to give tax privileges to medical service businesses because the BoI must comply with the national health charter and the service cannot be exploited for profit.
John Lee Kohshun, principal consultant of MuziHealth Consulting, said that medical tourists in a way have been helping in "subsidising" the cost of modern medical technology for Thai people. "Having compared the healthcare technology of Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore in the last 10 years, I must say that if there were no medical tourism in Thailand, it would be very much behind Malaysia and Singapore," said Mr. Lee.
About 10-15 percent of patients at medical tourism hospitals are medical tourists while 10-15 percent are expatriates and 5-10 percent are tourists who happen to get sick.
The Hong Kong government wants to double the size of its private healthcare sector to help save public money.
"Thailand's healthcare will go backward ... [as] I believe the government does not fully understand the economics of healthcare," said Mr. Lee, adding that to deal with the high charges of private hospitals, the government might require the hospitals to provide a certain percentage of their profit for charity care or other social activities if they want to apply for any tax benefit.
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