Venturing into health tourism and unlocking a world of benefits for Sri Lanka! – The Island


by dr. Gotabhaya Ranasinghe

Sri Lanka is blessed with natural resources and scenic beauty. Famed for the hospitality of the friendly people, the country has a lot more to offer than just delicious food, comfortable lodgings, adventurous nature trails, and the green-blue seas.Sri Lanka is facing a grave financial crisis, of which the repercussions are viciously experienced by many citizens. Its inability to bring in enough foreign exchange has exacerbated its woes.

How can we as medical professionals help the country during a forex crisis? Besides the short and medium-term plans that encourage many foreign donations to the country, shouldn’t we also look for a long-term plan to revive the economy?

Sri Lanka has one of the best education systems in the world and produces skilled professionals to many industries. Sri Lanka’s medical professionals are considered to be highly skilled, and I, as a medical professional myself, feel that there are endless possibilities for us to serve the country if the right opportunities are created.Tourism is a major forex earner, but what about health tourism, which is one of the largest growing segments of wellness and medical tourism?

What is health tourism?

Health Tourism allows people to travel to different countries to receive health services to increase their quality of life, enabling them to improve their physical and mental well-being.

Health tourism allows you to engage in activities, treatments, and therapies that benefit your health and contributes to a healthier physical, mental, and spiritual health.

Why is health tourism becoming a popular segment?

Affordable treatment

Professional health services

Long waiting lists in countries of residence

Insurance coverage-related matters

Benefits of native treatment

Confidentiality

Combination of treatment with holiday

Faster recover in a different environment

Availability of best and professional care / personalized care

Better access to technology and specialists

Availability throughout the year

What are the benefits of health tourism?

It’s the perfect gateway for tourists to receive high-quality healthcare at affordable prices.

Why should Sri Lanka contribute to creating a health tourism segment?

Health tourism is a growing industry. The global pandemic (covid-19) made people more cautious and aware of their health, and they are keen and make health and well-being a top priority. People are on the lookout for affordable holiday destinations and combine therapy, treatments, and access to medical procedures that may sometimes be unavailable in their residing country.Sri Lanka is a well-known holiday destination and it is easy to attract tourists who seek the bliss and comfort of health tourism.

Our country possesses skilled and specialized medical professionals who are:

Reliable and possess the required language skills

Empathetic and well-trained to care for patients

Comparatively cheap labor than European countries

Comparatively cheaper overhead costs and expenses

The ability to furnish patients with comfortable lodgings

Sri Lanka is a tropical country and the warm & sunny weather is known to be immensely beneficial for our health.

What treatments can we offer?

cardiology

ENT treatment

Eye surgery

Dental/dentistry

Dermatology / Cosmetic / plastic surgery

Orthopedics

bariatric surgery

transplants

Fertility treatment

Native treatment, oil therapies, and access to alternative treatment

spa therapy

Medication and yoga centers

Rehabilitation

Weight loss or healthy eating retreats

What’s stopping us?

I must frankly admit that to cater to the health tourism sector, the state-runt hospitals may need more time to undergo improvements such as patient-friendly lodgings and environment. This might seem a difficult task at a time like this due to lack of funds, but the private hospitals and treatment centers are equipped to engage in health tourism.With some innovative thinking, the private sector is capable of catering to professional health tourism industry.

What we are capable of offering!

Highly specialized medical professionals and well-trained staff

Internationally accredited, state-of-the-art medical facilities

Personalized care – The comfort and the convenience of a private room, interpreter & support staff while receiving treatment and other tailor-made services designed for the patient’s comfort.

Round trip travel support. Teams can offer services from medical treatment to travel assistance to a hotel of the patient’s choice, reservation assistance, visa procedure, etc.,

Significant cost reductions for the international patients Immediate access to treatment – ​​no waiting lists

Aftercare programs

A change of attitude will make us ready to serve a wider community!

No matter how skilled or specialized our professionals are, there are a few obstacles we are yet to overcome for us to open the country to health tourism. We need to get together as a team and turn a new leaf.

1. The country should introduce a simple visa procedure and allow hassle-free entry for the visitors.

2. Over the years as a medical practitioner, I have noticed that the private hospitals in Sri Lanka don’t quite meet the required standards and quality of patient care. I sometimes wonder if the private sector is far too commercialized and concerned only about earning money and not patients’ welfare. Are the medical support staff trained and experienced enough to care for patients, and to assist with their wants and needs? Are the patient rooms comfortable and clean? Does a patient have complaints about the available facilities even after paying money to obtain services? The specialized skilled services surely require to be more structured and organized.

3. Of course, I understand that private hospitals are profit-oriented commercial ventures. But, are they utilizing their profits for the benefit of the patients? Some private hospitals are not equipped with modern or advanced technology on par with standard treatments, especially when it comes to cardiology and perhaps in other areas too. Shouldn’t we address this issue as a national priority? Our privates need improvement in comparison with neighboring hospital countries like the Maldives, India, Singapore, etc., engaged in health tourism.Dr. Gotabhaya Ranasinghe, Consultant Cardiologist, Institute of Cardiology, National Hospital of Sri Lanka

I kindly urge relevant tourism authorities, the Ministry of Health, medical professionals, and private health caregivers to consider these views and create opportunities to implement a growing and nourishing health tourism sector in Sri Lanka to enhance the inflow of foreign exchange.Dr. Gotabhaya Ranasinghe, Consultant Cardiologist, Institute of Cardiology, National Hospital of Sri Lanka.

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