FOR years, medical tourism was nothing but a dream for those seeking the best and most advanced medical treatments, largely due to its prohibitive costs.
However, one destination in China – Hainan Free Trade Port – is offering its medical services at an affordable price.
In addition to sunshine, beaches and duty-free shopping, the Hainan Free Trade Port is also looking to develop its medical tourism.
Located in Boao Town, Hainan Province, the Boao Lecheng International Medical Tourism Pilot Zone (the Pilot Zone) is built with high-end medical tourism services and cutting-edge medical science and technology.
It is poised to become an emerging destination for Asian tourists to experience high-end medical tourism.
Last March, 65-year-old Wu was diagnosed with malignant melanoma and his best treatment period was only one month plus. Due to the impact of Covid-19, he had no chance to go to the United States to seek medical treatment.
By taking advantage of the special policies including ‘minimalist approval’ and ‘chartered medical treatment’, however, he successfully obtained the life-saving medicine CTLA-4.
After three months of treatment, his initial 10cm lesion had shrunk to 1.8cm and lost most activity.
"The doctors at the MD Anderson Cancer Center of the US all viewed it as a miracle. They thought it would take at least nine months of treatment,” said Wu.
Last year, the Pilot Zone set up the Never End International Innovative Medicine Equipment Exhibition, bringing down drug costs while simultaneously importing the latest pharmaceutical equipment from around the world.
For example, the surgery cost for one franchised Boston Type I artificial cornea and one franchised Boston Type II artificial cornea operated overseas is US$124,000 (RM501,952) - over four times higher compared to the Pilot Zone.
Moreover, patients can experience traditional Chinese medicine therapy in the Pilot Zone. For thousands of years, traditional Chinese medicine has been reputed for its moderate curative effects and slight side effects.
Natalia, a tourist from Ukraine, expressed: "All Chinese traditional medicines are made from natural materials, which is significantly different from Western medicine."
In other recent developments, the first Asia Advance International Medical Centre from Singapore opened in the zone last November.
Gathering international medical experts from Singapore, South Korea and the United Kingdom, the centre provides diagnosis and treatment services for patients from the Chinese mainland and other neighboring countries.
Currently, tourists from 59 countries, including those in Southeast Asia, can come to Hainan for a 30-day stay without a visa.
By 2030, a world-class destination for medical tourism will be built in the Pilot Zone, providing all-around services relating to anti-cancer, plastic surgery, anti-ageing, rehabilitation, and health management.
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