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Published on : Thursday, November 14, 2013
Bumrungrad International Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand, may look like a shopping mall or five-star hotel. It has 21 VIP suites to offer and the mezzanine has a McDonald’s. On the floor below, people line up to buy lattes and Americanos from a Starbucks.
Take a closer look and you can see sitting nearby with coffees, a father and son from Oman silently facing each other in the lobby. They had been in Bangkok for 50 days already, travelling to Thailand to seek treatment for the father’s prostate cancer.
“Some friends at home told us about this hospital,” said the son, declining to give their names. “They said it is very good.”
The largest private hospital in Southeast Asia, Bumrungrad is the unofficial leader of medical tourism in Thailand, itself the most popular destination for medical tourists in the world, though accurate data on this fast-growing industry remain elusive.
The Ministry of Public Health claimed Thailand received 2.5 million medical tourists last year, but medical tourism directories, such as Novasans.com, consider the true number to be fewer than 700 000 patients.
Singapore and India are the next leading destinations, but data for these countries are also unclear, say industry analysts. Together these three countries account for an estimated 80 per cent of the global medical tourism market, and Thailand alone for about 40 per cent.