by Dr Gotabhaya Ranasinghe
Sri Lanka is endowed with natural resources and scenic beauty. Famous for the hospitality of its friendly people, the country has much more to offer than delicious food, comfortable accommodation, adventurous nature trails and green-blue seas. Sri Lanka is facing a severe financial crisis, the repercussions of which are viciously experienced by many citizens. His inability to bring in enough foreign currency exacerbated his woes.
How can we as medical professionals help the country during a forex crisis? In addition to 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 in many industries. Sri Lankan healthcare professionals are considered highly qualified and as a healthcare professional myself, I believe there are endless possibilities for us to serve the country if the right opportunities are created. Tourism is a major earner of foreign exchange, but what about health tourism, which is one of the fastest 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 contribute to healthier physical, mental and spiritual health.
Why is health tourism becoming a popular segment?
Professional health services
Long waiting lists in countries of residence
Questions related to insurance coverage
Advantages of native processing
Combination of treatment with vacation
Faster recovery in a different environment
Availability of the best professional care / personalized care
Better access to technology and specialists
Availability all year round
What are the benefits of health tourism?
It is the perfect gateway for tourists to receive high quality healthcare at affordable prices.
Why should Sri Lanka help create a health tourism segment?
Health tourism is a booming industry. The global pandemic (covid-19) has made people more cautious and health conscious, and they are enthusiastic and making health and wellness a top priority. People are looking for affordable vacation destinations and combine therapy, treatment and access to medical procedures that may sometimes not be available in their country of residence. Sri Lanka is a well-known holiday destination and it is easy to attract tourists who seek happiness. and the comfort of health tourism.
Our country has competent and specialized health professionals who are:
Reliable and possessing the required language skills
Empathetic and well trained to care for patients
Relatively cheap labor than European countries
Relatively cheaper overhead and expenses
The possibility of providing patients with comfortable accommodation
Sri Lanka is a tropical country and the warm sunny weather is known to be extremely beneficial to our health.
What treatments can we offer?
Dermatology / Aesthetic/plastic surgery
Indigenous treatment, oil therapies and access to alternative treatments
Medicine and yoga centers
Weight loss or healthy eating retreats
What’s stopping us?
I must frankly admit that to meet the needs of the health tourism sector, public hospitals may need more time to undergo improvements such as patient-friendly accommodation and environment. It may seem like a difficult task at a time like this due to lack of funds, but private hospitals and treatment centers are equipped to engage in health tourism. With innovative thinking, the private sector is able to meet the needs of the professional health tourism industry.
What we are able to offer!
Highly specialized healthcare professionals and well-trained staff
Internationally accredited state-of-the-art medical facilities
Personalized Care – The comfort and convenience of a private room, interpreter and support staff while receiving tailored treatment and other services designed for patient comfort.
Support for round trip travel. The teams can offer services ranging from medical treatment to assistance with travel to a hotel of the patient’s choice, assistance with booking, visa procedure, etc.,
Significant cost reductions for international patients Immediate access to treatment – no waiting lists
A change in attitude will make us ready to serve a larger community!
Regardless of the skill or specialization of our professionals, we still have a few hurdles to overcome to open the country to health tourism. We must come together as a team and turn over a new leaf.
1. The country should introduce a simple visa procedure and provide hassle-free entry for visitors.
2. Over the years as a doctor, I have noticed that private hospitals in Sri Lanka do not quite meet the required standards and quality of patient care. I sometimes wonder if the private sector is not too commercial and only cares about making money and not the well-being of patients. Are medical support staff trained and experienced enough to care for patients and meet their wants and needs? Are patient rooms comfortable and clean? Does a patient complain about available facilities even after paying for services? Specialized qualified services certainly need to be more structured and organized.
3. Of course, I understand that private hospitals are commercial, for-profit enterprises. But are they using their profits for the benefit of patients? Some private hospitals are not equipped with modern or advanced technology to match standard treatments, especially in cardiology and perhaps in other areas as well. Shouldn’t we treat this problem as a national priority? Our private hospitals need to be improved compared to neighboring countries like Maldives, India, Singapore, etc. which are engaged in health tourism.Dr. Gotabhaya Ranasinghe, Consultant Cardiologist, Heart Institute, National Hospital of Sri Lanka
I urge relevant tourism authorities, the Ministry of Health, healthcare professionals and private carers to consider these views and create opportunities to implement a growing and nurturing health tourism sector. in Sri Lanka to improve the inflow of foreign exchange. Dr. Gotabhaya Ranasinghe, Consultant Cardiologist, Heart Institute, National Hospital of Sri Lanka.