Jordan's struggles continue

 

Jordan never set out to become a destination for the displaced or war wounded. But the countries where it gets patients from have much in common; Syria - civil war, Libya - civil war and several competing governments, Yemen - civil war, Iraq - war, civil war and unrest, and Sudan - civil unrest. There is another common factor, whatever medical services each once had, have been decimated and local care is very poor.

Private hospitals in Jordan are still trying to get Libyan authorities to pay debts of $300 million. With hindsight it is easy to criticise hospitals for not seeking proper contracts from governments with payment guarantees.

One reason why medical tourists went to Jordan is that many countries did not require visas either in advance or even on arrival.

Since a dramatic tightening of the visa system, the number of medical tourists has dropped dramatically. According to the Private Hospitals Association, from December 2015 to December 2016 - the number from Libya and Yemen fell by 70%.

Private hospitals make money from medical tourism-if the bills are paid. Hotels, airlines and general tourism also benefit from medical tourists and those who travel with them. So the medical tourism has a knock on effect on these sectors too.

Jordan's government may -or may not- want medical tourists. It does not promote the sector or help the PHA and private hospitals promote it overseas.

The PHA is negotiating with a reluctant government to bring in a medical visa that is electronic and easy to obtain. The hope is that if a Jordanian hospital can produce a medical report, then the authorities will issue a visa for medical tourists and their companions.

Hopes that the government would promote medical tourism have been dashed by the 2017 campaign that focuses on culture and heritage in an attempt to drive tourists to historical sites and museums.

The government does set and publish list prices for all medical treatment. The Ministry of Health investigates all complaints of over charging and hospitals must abide by any decision made. This should be an opportunity to offer price packages for medical tourists, but government shows no interest in helping or agreeing discounted packages.

Jordan is a preferred destination for Arab countries, particularly Saudi Arabia and other GCC countries, but the rise of compulsory health insurance, governments cutting back on overseas treatment and general economic problems all mean that potential numbers from the region will either stay small or even decline.

The message to all hospitals is that while it may seem morally just to offer to treat international victims, make sure you get paid in full and on time for what you do.

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