Addis Ababa in Ethiopia is the centre of local outbound medical tourism. Due to poor local healthcare, an increasing number of Ethiopians are seeking healthcare in other countries.
The problem is that most of them cannot even afford the cheapest Indian treatment. So as well as seeking gifts and loans from friends and relatives, many advertise to ask people to help with hospital costs.
The number of foreign hospital representatives in Addis Ababa is increasing significantly to address a growing demand of medical travel in the country. Five years ago, there were three foreign hospital representative offices, but there are now over a dozen.
Thailand based Bumrungrad International Hospital was among the pioneers in opening a representative office six years ago. During the first three years the office sent only 60 people in a year on for treatment but in the last two years the office has sent over 1000 people to Thailand.
Opened two years ago for the same purpose, the representative office for the Dubai based Rak Hospital, is dealing with people, often referred from local hospitals for services not available in Ethiopia such as orthopedics, joint replacement, neurosurgery, spine treatment, interventional cardiology, cardiac surgery, laparoscopic treatment and bariatric surgery Rak Hospital gets 240 people traveling from Ethiopia to Dubai every year.
There are also representative offices of Indian, Turkish, Saudi Arabian and South African hospitals in the capital.
It is not just treatment, many just want to travel for a medical checkup as they are not happy with the quality of the local health services and prefer to get checked abroad.
Ethiopians spent over 30 million dollars in medical treatment expenditure abroad, in 2012, according to estimates by the Ministry of Health.
Ethiopia has 130 public and 70 private hospitals, and better local care may reduce outbound numbers. The Myungsung Medical Center (MCM), a Korean-run health centre in Addis Ababa, has a $ 9 million expansion project to encourage Ethiopians to stay in the country for medical treatment.
Exactly how many Ethiopians travel for health reasons is not known, but local estimates put it at over 10,000.