Sri Lanka plans to promote medical tourism
Sujatha Weerakoone of the Export Development Board explains, "Professional service exports present a tremendous opportunity and can speed up government's '20 billion dollars exports by 2020' goal. Medical tourism is one of the most promising sub-sectors in this.
"We are ready to work with any and all stakeholders to get this off the ground. With only a per capita healthcare expenditure of 175 dollars, at first, Sri Lanka does not appear to have an advanced healthcare infrastructure similar to developed countries.
"But due to the support of well trained, high quality healthcare professionals, availability of treatment centres as well as pharmaceuticals, we are witnessing the emergence of a new sector that is medical tourism contributing to our service exports. Studies show that around 15% of patients in Sri Lanka are foreign patients, such as from the Maldives."
Sri Lanka has over a thousand government hospitals including teaching hospitals, district hospitals, special hospitals, divisional hospitals and medical care units. The island also has number of private hospitals.
The government neither has the money, experience nor wish to promote medical tourism on its own. So it wants to develop private public partnership to develop medical tourism.
The EDB has made the first national initiative to rally healthcare providers as well as stakeholders and formulate a common voice. It wants to build a 2015-20 National Masterplan Initiative on Medical Tourism. This would map out such factors as availability of hospital facilities, accreditation, specialisations, centre of excellence areas, post-surgery and wellness packages, medical tourism packages and tie-ups with global medical travel agents.
The EDB is establishing a formal link between the Medical Tourism Committee of Sri Lanka and Private Health Association (PHA). The EDB is ready to allocate prominent space in its web portal's service exports section for this initiative.
The Private Health Association includes the majority of Sri Lanka's private hospitals, nursing homes and private healthcare providers as members. Members of PHA treat 55 % of the country's outpatients and 15 % of the country's in-house patients, while the rest are treated by state sector hospitals and healthcare facilities.
Dr Lalith Peiris of Lanka Hospital of Sri Lanka comments, "This initiative can also help bring high net worth tourists instead of budget tourists and wellness medical tourism is a huge growth area. Through EDB we can help stakeholders understand how important medical tourism cold be." ■