To some, this word “medical tourism” might sound strange or even new. But it simply means travelling abroad in search of healthcare that is either less expensive or more accessible.
The practice of medical tourism is indeed common in recent years in our country and the world at large but it began way back in ancient times.
Traditionally, people were travelling from poor to rich countries but recent trends show that people are also travelling from developed countries such as the United States, United Kingdom to developing country destinations like India, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia, and south Africa.
In Africa, there is this movement pattern–people moving from one country to another in search of health care.
For example, Tanzanian citizens who live along the country boarders tend to travel to the nearby countries in search of medical treatment.
I have come across some people from Ngara, a district in Kagera Region bordering Rwanda and Burundi who travel to Bujumbura (a capital city of Burundi) just for medical treatment as they believe the cost of treatment is cheap and of good quality.
Recent statistics show that India earned about $2 billion in the year 2015. According to 2013 India medical tourism statistics, a total of twenty three thousands (23,000) patients were coming from Tanzania and among them; the leading top three African countries in medical tourism were Nigeria, Tanzania and Kenya.
Why are people travelling across the border in search for healthcare? Studies show that people travel far for medical surgeries like cardiac surgery, cosmetic surgery, knee and hip replacement; some go for other treatments like dental, fertility, psychiatry, alternative treatment and others.
What contributes to this growing trend of travelling across borders in search for health care? The response to this is indeed broad. Perceived cheap and quality healthcare in destination countries, lack of some important medical procedures in the home country ( for example major cardiac and kidney transplant surgeries); poor health infrastructure in our country; shortage of specialists in a given specialty, ( how many neurosurgeons do we have?); globalization has made it easy for people to travel for medical reasons; personal reasons like prestige also accou