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Sunday, February 27, 2005

CNN: Singapore a hit with medical tourists

Singapore a hit with medical tourists

From CNN Correspondent Eunice Yoon
Friday, February 25, 2005 Posted: 0414 GMT (1214 HKT)

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With its advanced medical facilities, Singapore is attracing hordes of medical tourists.
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(CNN) -- To Californian resident Eva Dang, Dr. William's Chong central clinic looks like any other office near her home.

Except his office is based in the southeast Asian city of Singapore.

Dang decided to take the 24-hour flight over the Pacific Ocean nearly 8,800 miles (14,000 kilometers) away for a dental appointment.

With medical costs climbing in many parts of the world, she is one of a growing number of patients who are looking for cheaper alternatives outside their home countries and having a holiday at the same time.

Many are finding such a place in Singapore.

With its advanced medical facilities, the city state is positioning itself to compete in the growing medical tourism industry.

"It's just as good as America", Dang says. "Doctors are very professional and caring and very attentive."

And cheaper, too.

If Dang had decided to have her procedure -- a new set of titanium teeth -- back home, it would set her back $56,000. In Singapore, the cost is about $41,000.

So when she took into account her insurance wouldn't cover the operation, she thought it made good sense to book the air ticket.

What's more, she can get to relax by the pool in a tropical climate, grab some food at the hawker stalls and catch the sights at the same time.

"We have something they might not be able to find at home," says Dr. Tat Hon Chan, from Singapore's Tourism Board.

The former British colony, which now has a population of 4.3 million people, isn't the only country marketing medical services.

Nations around Asia have been scrambling to promote their medical services and add more tourism dollars to their faltering economies.

Thailand and Malaysia are also offering medical and spa packages to attract foreign patients to stay at their hotels and hospitals.

However, Singapore benefits from its squeaky clean image and reputation as a regional medical center -- something expatriates such as American Gary Sweitzer appreciates.

"The doctors and nurses in Singapore have saved my life", says Sweitzer, who was rushed to Singapore from neighboring Indonesia after a hit-and-run accident.

If Singapore plays its cards right, the growing medical services field could help save its economy too after being hard hit by the global recession and technology slump at the turn of the century.

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