Medical tourism or also called medical travel, medical vacation, or health travel, means trips taken by a person outside their country to seek medical care–called medical tourists–. Usually, they do not travel too far; the closest destinations are neighboring countries, while the farthest destinations are countries that are still within the same continent.
In terms of the quality of hospital services in Indonesia, some parties claim that they are not less competitive with hospitals abroad and have increased human resource capabilities, infrastructure, equipment, and technology. But, there are still many Indonesians who have more confidence in health services abroad.
Indonesian Government Discourse on Developing Medical Tourism
According to PwC data, Indonesia is the country of origin for the largest medical tourists in 2015, with at least 600 thousand Indonesians traveled abroad to get medical treatment. The main reason is that they do not have domestic medical services to cure specific diseases.
The Indonesian government is currently reviewing plans to develop the industry, designed to increase access to health services for the community, and increase the nation’s independence in the health sector at the same time.
In recent years, countries in Asia such as Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, India, and South Korea are developing this type of tourism. For example, Thailand recorded the number of medical tourists in 2016 reaching 2.29 million people with a market value of USD 6.9 billion.
According to the data from the Indonesia Services Dialog (ISD), every year Indonesians spend fantastic money to get health services abroad. So, the development of medical travel in Indonesia is very realistic and profitable. These are some of the positive impacts that will be felt:
- Economic diversification
- Attracting foreign investment
- Providing employment opportunities
- Increase development and the healthcare industry in Indonesia
To support the new industry, the government needs massive promotion and supporting facilities.
Many Papua New Guinea Residents Seek Treatment in Jayapura
Abraham Lebelauw, the Indonesian Consul in Vanimo, Papua New Guinea (PNG), stated that many PNG citizens were treated at several hospitals and polyclinics in Jayapura, Papua Province because the health facilities are more adequate than in their country.
Vanimo is a PNG region located on the north-west peninsula, which is relatively close to the Papua region. From Vanimo to Jayapura or vice versa, it is approximately two hours by road trip.
Dian Harapan Hospital and Jayapura Dok 2 Hospital were two destinations for medical treatment for PNG residents. Apart from going to the hospital, PNG residents also visited clinics such as dental clinics. They are not only from Vanimo but also from other cities around Vanimo such as Lae, Wewak, and Aitape.
These opportunities should be captured because they can increase income in various sectors too. After all, medical travel also gives a chance to patients to explore a new destination and of course, a new culture. Several agencies offer first-class health vacation packages that let the tourists receive treatment while sightseeing, shopping, or relaxing on some tourist destination.
The Challenge to Develop Medical Tourism in Papua
The new industry needs to be further regulated by the government. As long as there is strong support from regulators, hospitals in the country can become a destination for medical travel. These are the steps to do to develop the industry:
The promotion of domestic hospitals to foreign countries is needed because several overseas hospitals can provide cheaper rates.
Collaboration between the Ministry of Health and other ministries needs to be established so that quality and inexpensive health services can be guaranteed to be carried out in Indonesia, just like in other countries
Tax rates too high
Hospital managers hope that the government can lower tax rates so that hospitals can provide more competitive services and can expand.
Limited specialist doctors
Some areas there is still a lack of equal distribution of doctors, for that, the ministry needs to sit together with various stakeholders, so that the number of doctors, especially subspecialists and specialists, is evenly distributed.
Sophisticated tools needed
Purchasing sophisticated tools to update technology should not be a barrier to encourage domestic hospitals to continue to expand and be competitive in medical tourism.
In 2018, two Regional General Hospitals in Papua Province; Jayapura Regional Hospital and Nabire District Hospital received awards related to the best services related to tuberculosis, from the Ministry of Health. Also, Jayapura Provita Hospital was inaugurated as an international standard type C hospital with sophisticated medical equipment.
These achievements are a hope that the people in Jayapura City will no longer go abroad for medical treatment. but instead brought in medical tourists to Papua. This also makes the plan of medical tourism in Indonesia, especially in the Land of Papua, realistic.