PHUKET: Results of a recent Phuket Gazette readers’ poll provide an interesting glimpse into how Phuket’s expatriate community feels about private healthcare services on the island. (See statistics in this week’s issue of the newspaper. Digital subscribers click here.)
The poll question asked readers to rate the overall the quality of treatment offered at private hospitals and clinics in Phuket.
In almost every other Gazette poll taken over the past year, the group of people who identified themselves as “local foreign residents” tended to hold views that could be considered “more cynical” than those of the other two demographics: Thais and foreign visitors to Phuket.
In our health poll, however, expats held the most favorable view, with 64% saying the private medical services on the island were positive (“excellent” or “good”) compared with just 11% who said they were “poor” or “terrible”.
The group appeared to be in a good position to judge, as only 5% of them said they had never used such services.
That such a favorable view is held by the resident expat community speaks well of the prospects for health tourism here, an industry which the Ministry of Public Health expects to play a key role in its ambitious national plan to generate over four billion baht in revenue for Thailand over the next five years.
One of the reasons for the success of medical tourism thus far in Phuket is the wide range of services on offer, with options for people of just about every income level.
Apart from the two international hospitals, treatment is also available at Mission Hospital as well as at many clinics, which are typically run by doctors attached to the island’s government-run hospitals: Vachira Phuket, Patong and Thalang. These three facilities also play an important but largely overlooked role in Phuket’s medical tourism.
But there is still much room for improvement. Reliable, independent information sources for tourists interested in treatments on the island are lacking, with much of the sales and marketing done by word-of-mouth or by inbound tour operators and other agencies seeking to turn profits.
Also left out of the picture almost completely are the medical needs of low-wage migrant laborers from Burma, the number of which could be as high as 200,000. Already that segment of the population is putting far too much strain on the state-run medical system.
We can only hope that when the new provincial government hospital opens on the east side of Phuket Town, where many Burmese live and work, special services will be set up to accommodate their needs.
If not, we are all candidates to suffer from the kinds of disease that are far more likely to arise in, and spread quickly from, the least fortunate members of the population here.