With the conflict in Ukraine ongoing, many stakeholders are wondering about the short term and long term consequences for the medical tourism industry – an industry that just went through a two-year dire strait caused by the pandemic.
A panel on March 22nd, 2022, organized by Irving Stackpole of Stackpole and Associates and Elizabeth Ziemba of Medical Tourism Training discussed some of the current, multifaceted challenges, medical travelers and service providers are being faced with. The panelists unanimously reported stalled admission numbers from Ukraine and Russia, due to travel restrictions and issues with discharging patients, as ways and modes of return are uncertain.
Current financial sanctions also impact the ability of Russian patients to pay for medical services abroad. Due to the openness of Turkish banks towards MIR Turkey seems to be better prepared for this scenario. Meanwhile UnionPay, a system favored by many Chinese patients, hospitals within the EU are struggling to quickly find solutions for these challenges. Options, for now, rely on the facilitator’s willingness to adapt and implement novel payment solutions or use their outside accounts to facilitate in-country payments. EU hospitals also face the shift of Ukrainian patients being supported under their SHI system.
Concerning the long-term impact the conflict will have, the panelists agreed that the road to recovery is going to be a long one. Christian El-Khouri raised the point, that refusing patients based on their nationality, not only sends a disastrous signal for our society at large. Moreover it will cause uncertainty about treatment options for patients, which can very well damage the entire medical tourism industry in a near unrecoverable way. Uncertainty touches on the foundation of medical treatment, namely the trust between patients, their providers and doctors.
As for how things will develop, we may rely on film producer Samuel Goldwyn, who once famously said: “Only a fool would make predictions – especially about the past.”
We all can just sincerely hope that the conflict will be resolved soon – which will leave us doing what we do best: Caring for patients and their families.
Ms. Patricia Montealegre, Manager of International Patient Services at Sant Joan de Deu Children’s Hospital, Barcelona, Spain.
Dr. Sinan Aran, Director International Program and CEO of Florence Nightingale Hospital, Istanbul, Turkey.
Christian Fadi El-Khouri, MESC International Patient Service, Hamburg, Germany.
Talip Kurumehmet, International Patient Services Department, Medipol Health Group, Turkey.
Watch the full-length panel on YouTube: