Singapore Aims to Draw More Foreign Patients

SINGAPORE ~ Singapore will invest S$1.5 billion (US$974 million) to strengthen its medical research capabilities as the city-state aims to meet its target of drawing one million foreign patients by 2012, the government said this week.

Foreign visitors traveling to Singapore for medical treatment doubled in 2005 from 200,000 in 2002 and they came not just from Southeast Asia but also from as far as Russia, Africa, Europe and the United States, Minister of Health Khaw Boon Wan said on Thursday.

“This is a major investment in new clinical capabilities,” Khaw said in an address to delegates at a medical tourism conference.

“We will continue to build on our strengths and make ourselves better,” he said.

The city-state is also looking to build more hospitals and other medical facilities in order to cater to the growing numbers of people willing to travel to another country for treatment, Khaw said.

“They have given us feedback on the need for land to allow them to expand, to build new hospitals and day surgery centers,” Khaw said of feedback gathered from the private healthcare service providers.

Citing figures from a study, Khaw said Asia’s medical travel market is projected to be worth $7 billion within the next five years, boosted in part by increasingly affluent consumers in India and China.

Over 1.3 million people travel to or within Asia for medical treatment every year, he said.

“As the middle class in China and India expands, we can expect this number to grow,” Khaw said.

Singapore is working to woo more foreign patients to seek treatment in the city-state, where its healthcare service providers are widely regarded as among the best in Asia.

The city-state is however facing stiff competition, mainly from Thailand, where the kingdom is also aggressively working on becoming the choice venue for foreign visitors seeking affordable, quality medical care.

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