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‘2019 witnessed dip in medical tourist numbers’

Regional competition, instability among reasons for decrease — PHA

By Bahaa Al Deen Al Nawas - Jan 06,2020 - Last updated at Jan 06,2020

AMMAN — In 2019, Jordan received 220,000 medical tourists, lower than the annual average, according to the Private Hospitals Association (PHA). 

In contrast, the numbers of patients visiting the Kingdom for medical reasons prior to 2016 exceeded the annual average of 250,000, the PHA said.

In a statement sent to The Jordan Times, PHA President Fawzi Hammouri said that medical tourism figures "are still less than the desired target". 

Among the nationalities that most seek out medical care in the Kingdom are Iraqis, Saudis, Syrians, Palestinians and Libyans, the PHA stated.

The most sought-after treatments were for heart diseases, weight surgeries, bone diseases, infertility, eye diseases, kidney and urinary tract issues, ENT and cosmetic surgeries. 

The PHA attributed "competitive treatment prices, no waiting periods, high-quality medical services and Jordanian hospitals’ international accreditation", among other reasons as to why medical tourists choose Jordan as a treatment destination.

The recent dip in medical tourists, Hammouri said, is due to the still unresolved issue of restricted nationalities, regional competition from countries like Turkey, Tunisia and India and overall instability in neighbouring Arab countries. 

"The Labour Ministry hinders recruiting necessary cadres from abroad in case of the unavailability of a Jordanian substitute," the association said.

It added that "the sector's competitiveness fell due to high operational costs at hospitals and government measures that include costly energy bills, increase in social security subscription fees, increasing income tax from 14 to 21 per cent, and the sales tax and medical necessities from 4 to 16 per cent, in addition to the high medicine prices in Jordan compared to other countries".

To increase the number of medical tourists in Jordan in 2020, Hammouri proposed lifting the limitation on restricted nationalities, lowering sales taxes on medical necessities and granting tax incentives to the private hospital sector, especially to hospitals that work specifically in medical tourism. 

These incentives would be similar to incentives given recently to the industrial sector, he said. 

He also called for reducing electricity costs for the sector and allocating funds in the budget for the promotion and marketing of Jordan as a regional hub for medical tourism. 

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