Above: Patients Travel for Medical Tourism
The Canadian Independent Medical Clinics Association (CIMCA) represents independent health care providers and their supporters to promote improved access to high quality and timely health care for all Canadians.
Medical Tourism in Canada
Recent statistics point to a depressing outlook for jobs in Canada, with the 2013 growth rate being the worst in a decade. Yet, on our own doorstep, is the potential to participate in one of the fastest growing areas of international trade known as "medical tourism". Patients travelling abroad for health care form part of a worldwide economy that is reputed to have doubled in each of the last three years.
Worldwide, such economic activity is estimated to be in the hundreds of billions of dollars. The biggest exodus of patients seeking care in foreign countries is from the United States. According to a recent report by Deloitte, in 2007 an estimated 750,000 patients left the U. S. to access health care abroad. That number is estimated to climb to 12 million. Already major U. S. insurers are negotiating contracts with foreign hospitals, and lost revenue to the U. S. is expected to reach US$162-billion within 3 years. So far, those medical tourists, and their funding, have been excluded from Canada, despite the fact that the U. S. is our biggest trading partner and closest neighbour.
Singapore receives over a million patient visits a year and over half a million patients go to India and Thailand. Mexico and Costa Rica are other destination resort for surgical procedures. In Europe, hospitals are clamouring for this revenue. The famous Royal Marsden cancer hospital in London generates 25% of its core revenue through the treatment of foreigners. Even in communist Cuba, the modest 100-bed Frank Pais orthopaedic hospital in Havana receives over US$20-million in revenue from offshore visitors. This helps subsidize the care of Cubans.
Canada is currently excluded from this enterprise because our health care system is almost exclusively operated by public hospitals that are prevented from entering such a market.
Canada could become a world leader in this field. If the growth of private sector health providers is encouraged, we could see the emergence of a world-class international health care industry here. Health care is a major growth industry. We have a situation in Canada where newly graduated health workers, including nurses and specialists, are unable to find work. The development of new facilities that would help grow and develop this new industry would benefit all.
Seven Enormous Potential Benefits:
- An economic boost through the creation of a multi-billion dollar Canadian "export" industry
- The retention and repatriation of health workers
- The creation of new, well paying, long-term quality jobs
- Investment in new health facility infrastructure
- Investment in new training programmes for new health workers
- Investment in the new advanced medical technology
- The development of related health and research industries
Dozens of countries are embracing and investing in medical tourism as part of their economic development. Medical tourism represents an excellent opportunity for our country, and all provinces should be preparing to develop, and benefit from, this enormous world market.