Cyprus’s commerce minister has presented a strategic plan to develop and promote health tourism in Cyprus. Antonis Paschalides says the target is to take the correct steps to promote Cyprus as the ideal destination for tourists in health matters. Alecos Ouroundiotis of Cyprus Tourism Organisation
(CTO) adds that health tourism has two categories: medical tourism, which includes specialised medical therapy; and well-being therapy which includes spas, alternative medicine relaxation and rejuvenation, "The target is to combine health treatment with holidays, recovery with relaxation. Cyprus is the ideal location to attract this type of health tourism due to its climate and geographic location in conjunction with its excellent healthcare facilities."
Dr Michael Guiry from the Center for Medical Tourism Research
comments that despite the many advantages that Cyprus has in attracting health tourists, there are also several disadvantages. These include Cyprus being associated with a history of turmoil and also that the island is mostly associated with recreational tourism as well as the fact that Cyprus does not have a medical school.
Dr Polis Georgiades of healthcare consultant firm Quale Vita
argues that health tourism accounts for approximately 2.5 per cent of total international tourism but has direct competition from Hungary, Greece, Spain, Syria, Egypt, and Turkey. He suggests that rather than promoting everything to everyone, Cyprus should target specific areas such as cosmetic surgery, IVF, prevention therapy and dental treatment in an attempt to attract more health tourists. He concluded that Cyprus should adopt a value for money approach, as it could not hope to compete directly with the lowest budget health tourism countries such as India.
Local newspaper Cyprus Mail
is not a fan of health tourism, and in an article targeted at those reading about the new promotion plans, made several points including -
* In the last three years the government has spent €106 million sending patients abroad for medical treatment. For many cases this was justified, as the required medical treatment could not be provided on the island, but in others it was not. There could be no justification, it argued, in sending patients to Israel, the UK or Greece for open heart surgery, when this can be done at Cyprus’ private hospitals.
* In February 2009, the Council of Ministers amended the regulations governing the sending of patients abroad for treatment, making it possible for someone to go abroad even if he or she could be treated in Cyprus. The old regulations had made it compulsory to use the local health sector, if the required treatment was available. The health minister makes the final decision as to where a patient would be treated.
* The health minister recently went to Israel to negotiate better prices, after Israeli hospitals raised their prices.
* Local hospitals still charge the rates agreed some 10 years ago.
* Why would anyone come to Cyprus for medical treatment when the health minister has so little trust in local doctors and hospitals that he sends patients abroad for treatment they could receive at home?
A Cypriot fertility clinic has closed down after questions about its involvement in selling human eggs. The clinic, situated in the village of Zygi, Southern Cyprus, dealt mostly with donors from Russia and Eastern Europe, in violation of Cypriot law, which permits only donors' expenses to be paid. It mainly targeted people from overseas, particularly Italy, who paid money out but have not received treatment.