Treatments of foreigners lift economy

MEDICAL TOURISTS::The nation’s high-quality, yet relatively cheap healthcare has led to a rise in foreign patients seeking treatment for issues related to fertility

By Tsai Shu-yuan and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Tue, Mar 19, 2013 - Page 5

The market for medical tourism in Taiwan — particularly in the fields of infertility treatments and artificial reproduction — has had knock-on effects on other parts of the economy and generated significant revenues.

The nation’s infertility treatments and artificial reproduction capabilities are acknowledged as being on a par with those of Japan and the US, with services offered at half the price of other countries in the region.

Many public hospitals and private clinics have expanded their activities in the sector, said deputy director of the Department of Health’s Taichung Hospital Huang Yuan-te (黃元德), who added that as facilities for such treatments are relatively large, treatments also bring tourism-related benefits to restaurants, hotels and shops.

Citing the Lee Maw-sheng clinic for obstetrics and gynecology as an example, Huang said the clinic treated more than 420 patients last year, generating revenues of NT$120 million (US$4 million), with an average spend of NT$300,000 per person on medical and accommodation expenses.

The clinic’s owner, Lee Maw-sheng (李茂盛), said that while Taiwanese do not put much faith in artificial reproduction, the number of foreigners visiting the nation for treatment has increased by 20 percent, adding that he estimated that the clinic treated more than 400 foreign patients last year.

The majority of foreign patients are from the Philippines, with Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand and China the next largest source of patients, Lee said.

Patients from the US, Europe and Japan placed third, Lee said, adding that he has also treated patients from Africa.

Most people who have come to Taiwan for treatment are very wealthy, and are often businesspeople, doctors, lawyers or others capable of paying the fees, Lee said, adding that some people stayed in Taiwan for the entire length of their treatment, bringing their families and visiting restaurants and tourist sites.

A 38-year-old woman from the US, who wished to only be identified as Lydia, said she came to Taiwan with her husband after four failed courses of treatment in the US.

Lydia said she was treating the trip as a vacation and hoped her relaxed mood would boost her treatment’s chances of success.

Another couple from the Philippines — who had been married for 10 years without being able to conceive a child — said that after five unsuccessful courses of treatment in the Philippines they recently achieved success in Taiwan.

Prior to returning to home, the couple said they had bought many souvenirs and gifts to give to family and friends in the Philippines.

According to officials from the Changhua Christian Hospital, the hospital, having set up accommodation for patients, last year treated about 40 foreign patients — more than 70 percent of whom were from China — generating NT$10 million in revenue.

The China Medical University Hospital, a relative latecomer to the field, also said it has made headway in the burgeoning market.

Chang Fan (張帆), deputy director of the hospital’s birthing center, said the hospital has already treated five foreign patients, despite only setting up facilities six months ago.

On average, expenditure was NT$250,000 per person, which included treatment, lodging, board and travel, Chang said.

Additional reporting by Wu Wei-kung, Chang Tsung-chiu and Lin Hsian-mei