It’s called the Medical City: the 800-bed hospital complex in Manila that is one of the Philippines’ biggest and most modern. Boasting a “hotel-like interior”, restaurants and shops, it does not have the look and feel of a place for the sick, and it is at the forefront of the country’s attempt to become a medical tourism hub.
Just three years ago, foreign clients accounted for less than 2 per cent of the hospital’s revenues.
These are mostly from US territories in the Pacific seeking alternatives to going to Hawaii or the American mainland. Now, it’s almost a tenth, according to Margaret Bengzon, Medical City’s chief financial officer, who predicts it will reach 30-40 per cent in a decade.
The biggest shareholder in Medical City is a private equity group called Lombard Investments, which has holdings in Thailand and other Asian countries.
Other major investors in the sector include First Pacific, which has a controlling stake in a company that owns two top-tier hospitals in Manila and several others in the provinces.
Thailand’s Bumrungrad International – a top name in the medical tourism business – owns a stake in Asian Hospital, one of Manila’s newest and most luxurious hospitals.
Inspired by Thailand’s success, the government is giving tax breaks and other incentives to investors building or upgrading health care facilities in the Philippines to international standards.
It wants to boost revenues from medical tourism to $3bn in two or three years from just $300m last year, a figure which includes payments for spas and alternative health treatments.
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