Health Minister: Medical tourism in Singapore stable

Sina English | 2008-11-11

Singapore's Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan said Tuesday that medical tourism in the city-state have not been affected by the recent financial crisis and he blamed its slower growth for the lack of capacity.

He was quoted by local radio 938LIVE as saying that Singapore's medical industry has been enjoying a steady growth of about 20 percent a year.

His remarks came after Parkway Health, one of the largest healthcare service providers in Singapore, said they have seen a dip in the number of medical tourists.

Parkway Health said over the last three months or so, the number of foreign patients to the private hospital has dipped slightly, by about 5 to 7 percent.

"I don't think it's because of demand, or we are losing competitiveness, but capacity is constrained...Both public and private hospitals are short of capacity...I think it's a situation of where demand has been curtailed because we don't have enough capacity to respond," Khaw was quoted as saying.

Though he admitted that the number of foreign patients seeking treatment in Singapore last year may not be as spectacular as that of 2006.

Singapore sees medical tourism as one engine to boost its economy and hopes to attract over 1 million international patients a year by 2012, nearly three times the current number.

However, the health minister said the current financial meltdown may influence the price of drugs and wages.

"I think the impact will be both plus and minus, to the extent the commodity prices, oil prices coming down, that would have impact on drug prices for example. So the last two years, drug prices increase was very significant and many trace back to oil price increase because oil affects many other downstream activities. So this softening, of course, we all will benefit and slowdown, wage increases will also not be as significant as in the past," Khaw said.

Khaw was speaking at the sidelines of the ground breaking ceremony for Parkway Health's flagship hospital.

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