To raise much-needed revenues for the improvement of its operations, the UST Hospital is now eyeing “medical tourism” or transnational medical services.

“USTH is offering services (to foreign nationals) in the U.S., Europe, or Japan at much cheaper rates (compared with those in) their home country,” USTH medical director Dr. Rolando Cabatu told the Varsitarian. “This is in line with the government project to promote health care as one of the (country’s) attractions in tourism.”

USTH signed a memorandum of agreement last January with the National Association of Independent Travel Agencies (Naitas), an 800-member travel organization, to promote medical tourism and train its staff for tourist patients.

“USTH needs to widen its (scope) and be experimental,” said Naitas president Angel Ramos-Bognot, an advocate of medical tourism in the country. “(And since) UST, the leading medical school in the Philippines, (has a hospital), we want to promote and assist its medical staff in creating a hotel environment within the hospital.”

Ramos-Bognot also said the Philippines is lagging behind its Asian neighbors like Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and Hong Kong, in medical tourism.

“Medical tourism has been there for quite some time now, but it is only now that it is being discussed in the Philippines,” Ramos-Bognot said.

Nevertheless, recent reports have identified the Philippines as a prime location for medical tourism.

According to Cabatu, some USTH wards have been renovated to accommodate foreign patients.

Medical tourism, popularized in Singapore, is said to generate more revenue since transnational patients will be paying in foreign currency, Cabatu added.

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Aside from USTH, only five other hospitals are accredited with Naitas in medical tourism: Medical City in Pasig City, Capitol Medical Center and St Luke’s Medical Center both in Quezon City, Asian Hospital and Medical Center in Muntinlupa, and Makati Medical Center.

Better USTH at 59

UST Rector Fr. Tamerlane Lana, O.P. said a P200-million Cancer Institute, specializing in research, treatment, and education, will rise in the ambulance garage in front of the 59-year-old USTH to expand the hospital’s services.

“We have already been left behind by other hospitals,” Fr. Lana told the Varsitarian. “We are strengthening the service component of the hospital (to make it) more financially viable (without) abandoning USTH’s teaching component.”

Last year, USTH created a separate board of trustees and filed for separation from the University to become a more “service-oriented” hospital.

USTH also plans to build nine satellite hospitals across Luzon, including in the UST Sta. Rosa, Laguna property initially slated for the University’s medical and science education expansion, Cabatu told the Varsitarian.

USTH refurbished several offices and wards especially after USTH administrators reported a 20 per cent increase in patients from about 9,000 to 12,000 per month since last year.

In addition, the hospital’s newly launched blood bank and medical social service were relocated to the ground floor to accommodate operational expansion.

About 200 more physicians have also joined the 380-man staff last March.

“We are looking good for the past eight months,” Cabatu said. “We are on our way to recovery.”

As of press time, no exact data from the USTH auditing offices were gathered pending its official release at the end of the fiscal year in May.

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