I previously posted some thoughts and a story about the outgoing side of medical tourism in the U.S. and the uncertainties due to the new health care reform bill. On the incoming side here in Thailand there is another source of uncertainty completely unrelated to U.S. health care reform. It’s the political unrest that has been in full swing for a month now with protesters blocking major intersections and completely disrupting access to major shopping areas and impacting nearby international hospitals. The violence and deaths that occurred have hurt Thailand’s image as a safe destination, causing many tourists to cancel their plans to visit the Kingdom.
Major international hospitals in Bangkok revealed some numbers in a recent Bangkok Post story. Bangkok Dusit Medical Services Plc (BGH), the country’s largest private hospital operator, said foreign patient visits decreased by 20% this month compared with the same period of 2009. This is the hospital group that a few years ago went through a major expansion and bought up hospitals and clinics across the country. One of their clinics is in the small town near where I live and one of their large hospitals in the one in Korat where we recently did our annual health screening.
According to Pongsak Viddayakorn, the BGH’s executive adviser, many cancellations resulted from travel warnings by European and Middle Eastern governments. Foreign patients including expatriates living in Thailand account for 35-40% of the total for BGH, so there is concern that if the political unrest continues there could be significant earnings impact.
Well known Bumrungrad Hospital said its business faced minor pressure from the protesters’ occupation of the Ratchaprasong intersection earlier this month which is not far from the hospital. Bumrungrad’s foreign patients are a large fraction of its total customers. Phyathai Hospitals estimates a 7-10% decline of international patients arriving at this month compared with last April. International patients represent only 10-12% of their total clients so the impact is not as large as for BGH and Bumrungrad.