Is Hainan medical tourism project hype or reality?


China’s Hainan region is a pleasant tourism destination for the Chinese. Is the plan to attract medical tourists there who might otherwise leave China and travel abroad for treatment for serious ailments such as cancer, hype or real?

The official version says that Hainan will attract millions of medical tourists in the next few years.

The massive project began in 2013 and huge amounts of state cash are being used each year. The latest official report states there are 20 actual and 15 approved projects with a total cost of $3.3 billion. The hospitals and clinics that are established and planned for the future are wide-ranging, offering everything from cancer treatment to cosmetic surgery.

Even the latest government report accepts that while getting doctors and other medical professionals to live in one of the most pleasant regions of China, it is not so easy to get top grade surgeons and specialists who need to work in a busy environment to retain and hone their skills.

The Chinese government China believes it has the market to make Hainan flourish as a destination for medical tourism, not only for its own citizens but also for those from other countries.

Hainan Island has been designated a special economic zone for medical tourism with its own regulatory regime for medical experimentation, notably stem cells clinical research, permitting research that is forbidden or controlled elsewhere in China. The move formalizes a four-year-old pilot scheme.

Hainan Boao Lecheng international medical tourism pilot zone was the first of its kind in the country when approved by the State Council in 2013. It enjoys nine preferential polices, including special permission for medical talent, technology, devices and drugs, and an allowance for entrance of foreign capital and international communications.

"We plan to recruit 100 obstetricians and gynaecologists and 100 paediatricians this year, by offering high salaries and establishing professional maternity centres," claims Hainan governor Liu Cigui, he adds that the province also has plans to offer high-quality educational facilities by investing $7.3 million each year in recruiting school principals and teachers from across China.

The governor regularly promotes Hainan in his speeches by boasting about its golden sands, blue water and clean air to encourage people to buy property there. In is latest speech he reports that five healthcare centres will be built to ensure that no resident is ever more than one hour's drive away from one.

Many hospitals and clinics are opening in Hainan in a hope of attracting both domestic and overseas medical tourists. One successful area is maternity tourism with both Russian and Chinese mothers going there to have children.

More than 60 million people visited Hainan in 2016, the majority of whom were Chinese domestic travellers. The hype on medical tourism is high, but actual figures are non-existent.



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