Jordan still leads region in medical tourism, but it's not easy
Jordan’s medical tourism sector remains among the most robust in the Middle East but must address several challenges to retain its competitive, according to a sector representative. In a recent interview with The Jordan Times, Private Hospitals Association (PHA) President Fawzi Hammouri claimed that the first four months of the year witnessed a 7 percent increase in the number of patients who came to the Kingdom for treatment, the majority of whom were from Libya, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Iraq and Palestine. He did not provide detailed figures to back up this statement.
Hammouri praised the country’s healthcare sector for its ability to respond to regional crises, which he said helped make Jordan one of the top medical tourism destinations in the region and beyond. During the past several years, he added, Jordan has treated many patients injured in conflicts and turmoil in regional countries, particularly the Libyan revolution last year. “When we started to receive Libyan patients, there was no agreement between the two parties, and we treated them, even without having financial guarantees,” he noted. Despite the sector’s strengths, the PHA president acknowledged that medical tourism in Jordan must overcome several challenges in order to achieve further growth in patient numbers and revenues. Patients coming from some countries, he said, need up to three weeks to obtain a visa to enter the Kingdom.
As a result, those who need more urgent treatment to turn to other destinations like Turkey, where they can receive high-quality care with less complex visa procedures. “Turkey is our main competitor in the region,” Hammouri noted. “They give visas to patients upon arrival at the airport, even if those patients are from countries whose citizens usually need to wait to obtain visas.” Another challenge facing not only medical tourism but also the country’s health sector in general is brain drain, the PHA president added, noting that large numbers of physicians emigrate to the US, the UK and Gulf countries.
According to the latest figures made available to The Jordan Times, more than 200 doctors left the country for better opportunities abroad in 2010. In order to stay in the lead, Hammouri said, “we are promoting Jordan’s medical sector in new markets including Chad and Nigeria.” Around 180,000 patients came for treatment in the Kingdom’s hospitals in 2011, compared to around 220,000 the previous year, according to PHA figures.