Thailand as Medical Tourism Destination: Private Hospital Gains, Public Health Care System Harms

According to The Guardian, Thailand’s policy of promoting itself as a destination for international patients is having harmful effects upon Thailand’s public health care system.  Doctors in Thailand can greatly increase their salaries by leaving publicly funded health care facilities and taking positions at private hospitals catering to international patients.  Promoting medical travel for international patients is also having the effect of pulling physicians and nurses from rural hospitals and clinics and concentrating them in Thailand’s cities.  The Guardian mentions numerous policy initiatives that might reduce harmful effects of medical travel.  Whether these proposals can reduce harms while spreading benefits of inbound medical travel is at present unclear.  Several health economists and public health specialists in Thailand argue that Thailand should stop promoting itself as a destination for medical tourists and focus upon promoting better access to health care across the country as well as across socioeconomic classes.

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