Rwanda aims to be a medical tourism destination

 

Most Rwandans are on a subsistence income, with poor healthcare, but local officials still claim that they will, in years to come, become a medical tourism destination.

The Central African country would like to develop regional medical tourism but needs overseas investors to set up hospitals to stop locals from going abroad for treatment and attract people from nearby countries such as Burundi, Tanzania and Uganda.

The people that hospitals want to stop going overseas, or attract to the country, are not the majority of the population. Their target is specifically politicians, local officials, army officers, and business people, who can afford to pay for themselves and their family with money from their own pockets, or from the organisation they work for.

Some local hospitals are being renovated and expanded. The Rwanda Military Hospital (RMH) that is constructing a Rwf1.8 billion wing for very important persons. Construction works started in October last year and will be complete early next year. Seeking the same market are the University Teaching Hospital of Kigali (CHUK) and King Faisal Hospital (KFH) that both operate healthcare facilities for very important patients.

RMH has agreed with Turkish international hospital chain, the Memorial Health Care Group, to have Memorial offer specialist consultation services, train medical personnel, assist in research and conduct clinical lectures. It will also conduct medical specialty clinics in transplant surgery, cardiology, oncology, orthopaedics, nephrology, neurosurgery and paediatric cardiology.

There are also a growing number of private clinics, often with international investors, also targeting the better off Rwandan citizens.

Rwanda is striving to rebuild its economy, with coffee and tea production being the main sources of foreign exchange. Two thirds of the population live below the poverty line. Poverty is widespread and Rwanda is highly dependent on aid.

While the government has succeeded in revamping the health sector, much remains to be done to position the country as a destination of choice for medical tourism. There is an urgent need for more investment in infrastructure, medical personnel and attracting more foreign investors to build hospitals.

A handful of hospitals near border do treat people from overseas for free or for a small fee, but they mostly offer basic care and facilities. Overseas investors interested in the country want a return for their money, which treating the poor does not bring. They also have concerns that the autocratic President has been in power since 1994 works hard to keep potential rivals at bay and will remain in power until he dies; and when that happens, with rival tribes and no natural successor, the country could easily revert to chaos.

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