June 11 - 17 , 2007 Myanmar's first international weekly © Volume 19, No. 370
 
 
 

Medical tourism gives patients options

By Thein Win Nyo

WHILE many public and private hospitals in Myanmar offer excellent service and care, many people still choose to leave the country when they require surgery.

Dr Htin Lin, director of Myanmar Zircon Company, says agents representing Thai and Singaporean private hospitals have been operating in Myanmar since the late 1990s.

“Our observation is that Singapore public hospitals are benefiting from Myanmar patients’ perception that they deliver better healthcare. As a result, the number of patients visiting Singaporean public hospitals is increasing,” he says.

Myanmar Zircon provides free advisory services to all Myanmar patients. But the company works exclusively with Singapore’s health services and does not offer services in Bangkok.

Dr Aung Pyi Tun, who runs Mascots Company, explains the services his company provides.

“We are effectively the link between our clients and the hospitals or clinics they choose to work with. We set up referrals, arrange visits and transfer case information between local doctors and their overseas counterparts. We also handle general enquiries, set up tele-consultations, travel documents, cost estimations and facilitate medical evacuations,” he says.

Mascots Company has links to a number of hospitals in Singapore, including the National University Hospital (NUH) and Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH).
But the company does not limit itself to Singaporean hospitals and also assists clients who would prefer to visit a Bangkok hospital instead.

“Our clients are often wealthy individuals with serious medical conditions,” Dr Aung Pyi Tun says.

“Part of our service is providing second opinions so that these clients can confirm their diagnoses. After that we put them in touch with whatever medical services they require. Often that means they will leave the country to receive treatment,” he says.

Dr Htin Lin says that the most popular hospital for major surgery is Singapore General Hospital.

“As the largest Joint Commission International (JCI) accredited hospital in the region, we notice that Singapore General Hospital receives most of the patients requiring sophisticated surgeries like bone marrow transplants, brain surgery, heart surgery, thoracic surgery and liver surgery,” he says.

Dr Htin Lin says the market for medical tourism is undergoing a change at the moment.

“While most patients have traditionally been people going for very major and complicated medical and surgical operations, we are seeing more patients just going for medical check ups,” he says.

“These people are choosing to have check ups done while they are outside the country on business and shopping trips. In these cases, their shopping and business destinations pretty much decide which hospitals they visit,” he says.

He estimates that more than 100 Myanmar patients go abroad each month for medical care. Dr Aung Pyi Tun says he estimates that 1000 to 1500 patients visited Singapore alone last year.

Debate surrounds the best and cheapest places to go for treatment.
Dr Paw Myint Oo of the Bangkok Hospital Medical Centre’s office in Pyinmana says Bangkok is a cheaper option and provides the same service.

“Getting treated in Bangkok is 50 percent cheaper than Singapore. And the results are identical,” he contends, adding that he thinks medical tourism will benefit Myanmar.

“I think medical tourism will indirectly stimulate the private healthcare sector in Myanmar because hospital directors will recognise that people are going abroad to have operations that they could easily have done here,” Dr Aung Pyi Tun says.

He offers some advice to people considering where they should get treated.
“People should be well informed and prepared. They should get advice from the relevant Myanmar specialists before they hop on a plane overseas.”

Dr Htin Lin says he has faith that his clients exercise good judgement when assessing their medical options.

“Myanmar patients are getting more and more knowledgeable about the standard of healthcare provided by foreign hospitals and more sophisticated in choosing which hospital to go to for medical treatment.

“Instead of going to a hospital they are already familiar with as they did in the past, they now start asking questions like “is this hospital JCI accredited?” Or “How reputable are the doctors we will be dealing with?”. Sometimes people even ask me to find out how many times the doctor or surgeon has performed a particular procedure.”

   
         
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