Thailand sets sights on medical tourism after combating COVID

Phuket. Photo by Flickr

One month after reporting zero virus transmission, the province of Phuket in Thailand is now opening its doors to the “new normal” by investing in the medical tourism sector.

A report by the Bangkok Post said on Thursday that Phuket has approved a 3-billion-baht investment in medical tourism in a bid to cushion the impact of the coronavirus disease on the medical and public health sector.

The plan was subject to the approval of the ministries of Public Health and Tourism and Sports. If given the green light, the plan will be endorsed to the Cabinet for its consideration.

Under the program, a medical tourism area will rise on a 141-rai land on one of the widely-visited beach destinations called Hat Mai Khao.

Bangkok Post said the project will be done in two phases, with the first phase covering the construction of four medical facilities, an international health plaza, a premium long-term care center for the aged, a hospice care center for terminally-ill patients, and a comprehensive rehabilitation center.

Phase 1 alone was expected to cost 1.29 billion baht and be completed in September 2021.

Meanwhile, the second phase of the project was scheduled for construction in 2022 and will focus on the prevention of the virus and other pandemics in the future. It was projected to cost 1.67 billion baht.

A cancer treatment facility with radiation therapy machines and comprehensive care will also be established during the said phase.

Funding for the project will come from borrowings by the Finance Ministry.

“The project would project the image of Phuket as a place for affordable medical services and world-class tourism,” said Vachira Phuket Hospital director Chalermpong Sukontapol.

Phuket so far has eight international medical care facilities: for brain and heart surgery centers, a hyperbaric medical center, a minimally invasive surgery center, and an autism center.

Sukontapol said that the idea to promote medical tourism in Phuket was initiated in 2017 when Noraphat Plodthong was governor of Phuket. It was aimed at combining the province’s two strengths—medical services

The idea was to combine the province’s two strengths — medical services and tourism.