A 20,000 increase in the demand for treatment abroad in Thailand has seen the UAE's medical tourism figures rise to 70,000 patients.
A medical tourism investigation conducted by Gulf News, situated in the UAE, has revealed that Thailand has become the premiere healthcare destination for nationals and residents of the UAE.
According to Gulf News, almost 70,000 Emiratis travelled abroad to Thailand for medical treatment in 2006. The figures represent a steep rise from the previous year. In 2005, there were some 48,802 medical tourists and the year on year trend shows continuous growth in the medical tourism industry.
UAE ambassador to Thailand Salim Al Za’abi told Gulf News that the root cause for the demand for medical tourism to Thailand is mainly down to the perception of distrust and dissatisfaction with the UAE healthcare system.
"We have good doctors and hospitals in UAE”, Mr Al Za’abi said. “But people don't trust them - they just don't trust the doctors in the UAE."
However, there appears to be several valid reasons for the distrust of the UAE healthcare system. There is a general feeling that the domestic healthcare system does not represent value for money, particularly as the service and care patients receive is thought by many to be slow and insufficient. Others feels that UAE doctors lack important medical expertise, and when treatments in UAE has resulted in medical mistakes, patients have travelled to Thailand to have the treatments corrected.
Medical tourism in Thailand
The Bumrungrad Hospital in Thailand is one of the most popular destinations for overseas patients. Dr Peter Morley, chief medical officer at Bumrungrad Hospital, believes that its four-C philosophy is behind the hospital’s success.
He said: “The ‘care’ is as good as any you're going to get in the world; The ‘cost’ is 1/8 of the costs in the United States, 1/6 of the costs in Europe and UK; the ‘comfort’ is superb. We have doctors trained in the Middle East and translators, so culture, religious observances and language are all taken care of; and finally ‘continuity’ - We advice the patients before they come and we give medical reports to their hospitals for continued care.”