Australia looks to cash in on medical tourism

Updated - October 13, 2016 10:20 pm IST

Published - January 15, 2011 12:40 am IST

The Australian federal government is looking to cash in on the profitable medical tourism market, which is worth more than $20 billion a year and projected to grow by 35 per cent per annum, the local media reported on January 14.

The Canberra Times said that the government is ready to spend about $50,000 on a scoping study, after a discussion paper concluded that fostering a medical tourism market could prove a boon for the health and tourism sectors.

According to the preliminary analysis produced by the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism, Australia should target “sophisticated, wealthy” patients. “These consumers are likely to include wealthy consumers from developing countries who are seeking to access higher standards of care and procedures that are not available in their home country.” It also showed Australia could exploit its proximity to Asia, its capacity in private hospitals, a safe and clean environment, and its expertise with niche medical devices as the attractions.

“These capabilities may present unique medical tourism for implant surgical procedures [such as] hip and knee replacements, hearing and cardiac implants; laser, burns, eye, vascular, sleep disorder treatment; regenerative [and] stem cell treatments and cancer treatments,” according to the discussion paper.

But the Australian Medical Association vice-president Steve Hambleton urged caution.

“I'm not sure now is the right time,” he said. “We already know that we've got a shortage of practitioners in this country. We've increased our number of medical students. We're having trouble with training of those medical students right now. We need to make sure we don't utilise our expert medical capacity in a way that would impact on training or impact on service delivery for our own country.”

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