At least 500 orthopedic surgeons and 100 specialists on metabolic diseases can treat Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the Philippine Medical Association (PMA) governor and an orthopedic surgeon Dr. Leo Olarte maintained.
She herself attested to this. She penned an executive order in October 2004 creating a private-public initiative—the Philippine Medical Tourism (PMTP) program—to promote health tourism and provide $2 billion to the country’s coffers annually.
She was right. The year after, about 1.26% of the total GDP (P68.5 billion) came from the PMTP program. Medical tourism had generated about .73% jobs in the Philippines.
But how else could it succeed if the former president insists to be treated abroad? How else would people believe that the Philippines has improved its healthcare competence and clinical labor force?
During the opening of the St. Luke's Medical Center Global City at The Fort in Taguig City, Rep. Macapagal-Arroyo complimented its ‘quantum leap in medical care.’ The P6.95-billion hospital built on 1.6-hectares with 629 patients' rooms and 400 doctors' clinics is three times bigger than its branch in Quezon City.
“If St. Luke's QC was ‘better than 95 percent of hospitals in America,’ the new facility is ‘better than 99 percent of the hospitals,’ then-President GMA was quoted saying. She had also claimed that ‘patients like her and her husband could now look forward to a treatment that is at par with, if not better than, the best hospitals in the world.’
Was that just a praise release?
Last year, worldwide medical tourism reaped $40 billion. This brought about Dennis Arroyo, the director of the National Economic Development Authority during GMA’s tenure, to conclude that ‘even the next administration will continue to gain from the growing medical tourism industry, which is expected to become a $3-billion industry by 2015.’
The central region of the country has 44 accredited hospitals by the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Tourism (DOT). Three of these were also approved by the Joint Commission International (JCI), an international organization providing accreditation for hospitals and other healthcare facilities worldwide.
The American Medical Association (AMA) has also been sending practicing physicians in their country to train here. Unsurprisingly, for the Philippines ranked 60th in delivering healthcare.
Still, the Pampanga representative believes ‘foreign specialists are the only ones who can treat her’ till today. The world-class hospital had admitted that the bone biopsy procedure she needed can only be done abroad.
(Read the other side of my argument.)