Exclusive for theMAGAZINE PH
by MARC GUERRERO
SINGAPORE (28 February 2007 via AOL, Yahoo and Google) – Over a dozen nations represented by more than a hundred CEOs of private and public healthcare provider companies got interactive, convergent, interlinked and connected at the inaugural Singapore Medical Tourism Asia 2007 Conference in Sheraton Towers Hotel, from the 26th thru the 28th of February 2007.
The CEOs came together at the three-day forum and workshop organized by IBC Asia (S) Pte Ltd of T&F Informa Group UK to help each other define world health travel and share knowledge and knowhow on medical tourism. Their ultimate genda was to develop world class models for success in MT worldwide.
The Philippines took the forefront seats of medical travel destination countries led by India, Thailand, Taiwan and more than seven other nations in proactively participating in the first MT Asia confab by sending the largest multisectoral delegation. She shared ideas and ideals on medical tourism with specialists and generalists in the confab as she tried to learn from multinational experts how to become a more “preferred health travel desti-nation” herself. Some six decades ago, The Philippines was her Asian neighboring countries’s choice destination for their smart nationals’ educational trips and training programs – from agriculture to industrialization and technology to entertainment.
With a delegation of 24 doctors, nurses, clinic, hospital and healthcare executives, policymakers, communicators and stakeholders, both the official and informal parties from The Philippines served in various capacities at MT Asia ‘07 that was well managed by conference manager Banu Kannu, marketing manager Rita Parasurum and administrative manager Peggy Phor and their staff, with overall supervision by Christine Lindsey, IBC managing director, and Rebecca Wolfe, associate director.
Dr Hernando B Delizo of Clinica Manila by Ambulatory Healthcare Institute, representing the Macapagal-Arroyo administration’s retirement and health & wellness clusters and Quezon City Chamber of Commerce and Industry (QCCCI), and Dr Joel Beltran of Asian Hospital were conference resource speakers. Delizo did an update on the country’s synergized MT programs initiating possibilities for repackaging to make MT work for all Filipinos in the Philippine homeland and abroad, while Beltran spoke of price competitiveness.
Filipino-American, Dr Philip Chua, of the Cardiovascular Hospitals of America(CHA), otherwise known as “Dr Phil” ( fond monicker of Oprah Winfrey to her own TV show’s Dr Phil) to former MT Asia ‘07 project director Catherina Oh who had moved on from healthcare to ICT, was confab chairman on second day. Chua frequents Cebu for an American MT center in the 12th 9Association of Southeast Asian Nations) ASEAN Summit venue.
Mark Riseley of Validus – sumptuous Sheraton’s The Lounge Dining Room luncheons sponsoring company – was Chua’s counterpart on first day, with Dr Sanjiv Malik of MaxHealth assisted by marketing whiz kid Vivek Shukla, both from India, co-directing the masters workshop on third day.
Three other Filipino physicians represented their respective hospitals in Manila, Universityof Santo Tomas (UST), Capitol Medical Center (CMC) and Medical City. A Harvard student, Joel Liwanag, and Vlad Wycoco of TUV-SUD Philippines attended the conference.
TERROR ZONES AS PEACE ZONES. Zamboanga City Special Economic Zone Authority chairman and administrator Georgina P Yu was inspiring and driving her team comprised by Meinrad Yanga, Norj delos Reyes et al in selling their Southern Philippines “City of Flowers” as the next Quezon City of medical tourism. A former nurse, Madame Yu had initiated talks with Thailand Bumrungrad’s Ruben Toral in go-getting it for the wartorn-no more Zamboanga, a potential “peace zone (where the Armed Forces, Muslim rebels and foreign interventionists will cease fire) for health and wellness.” The idea was ventured by theMAGAZINE publishers and editors to Philippine Peace Processes Undersecretary Ramon Santos during the 2006 Mindanao Business Conference in “Asia’s Latin City.” Yu had invited the Philippine press in Manila and Singapore, as well as the foreign media from the Lion City, to visit Zamboanga and her Zamboanga Ecozone & Freeport leadership will sponsor.
‘DOCTORS ENJOINED TO BE MORE OPEN TO COMMUNICATING WITH PATIENTS.’ Medical Tourism Asia 2007 Singapore Conference was an exclusive coverage of sorts for theMAGAZINE of Manila, The Philippines, from Day One. It was not because “doctors normally shun publicity and promotion,” observed an Indian marketing communicator who declined to be named. It was neither Singapore media are too polite to stir debate when throwing queries during press briefs, “they only seek further information in addition to what’s on the press kits, brochures and websites,” as a foreign business writer based in Singapore had perceived.
Twenty-first century physicians should be able to do two things for their patients, according to Apollo Hospitals’ Dr Arun Prasad in a question-and-answer session of the confab. Dr Prasad pointed out to his colleagues in the forum, “One, doctors should extend service to anyone (regardless of nationality and capacity to pay).
“Two, doctors should find (more) time, (by going out of their way), to communicate the pros and cons, the do’s and don’t’s, and so on, of medical procedures to medical travelers,” Prasad, a surgeon, expounded. Underscoring in parentheses and italics by this writer.
It was only halfway through Day Two of MT Asia ‘07 when the press and the media based in Singapore were invited to get in, and get wet, to feel the essence, the action, the spirit of the definitive event that was unfolding.
PATIENTS BEYOND BORDERS. American medical tourism researcher Josef Woodman, author of “Patients Beyond Borders… Everybody’s Guide to Affordable World-Class Medical Tourism,” (a spinoff inspiration from Doctors Without Borders and Reporters Beyond Borders organizational concepts of many years back, for this writer), did a press launch of his book, courtesy of Dr Jason CH Yap, MBBS, MMed (Public Health), FAMS, MBA (Information Systems), CSSP, director of SingaporeMedicine of the Singapore Tourism Board’s Healthcare Services. SingMed manager Jeslyn Tan Chou Leng was at hand to lend an inspiration to her boss and colleagues. SingTourBoard Communications’Sherina Chan and Kim-Kyna Tan (“I like the multi-ethnicity of Filipino names!,” she confided in theMAGAZINE), manager and assistant director, respectively, were most helpful to the press. It was learned, Singapore Health manager for marketing and business development, Irene Tan, will fly to Manila soon after MT Asia ’07 for arranging possibilities for MT.
Author Woodman, in the inaugural American edition of Patients Beyond Borders, listed down 12 of 50 medical travel “desti-nations” as having “the best, safest clinics (and hospitals) for MT,” inadvertently missing out The Philippines. They are, not necessarily in the order of import, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo in Brazil; Barbados and Antigua in theCaribbean; Costa Rica; the Czech Republic; Hungary; Bangalore, Chennai,Mumbai and New Delhi in India; Kuala Lumpur and Penang in Malaysia; along theCalifornia, Texas and Coast borders in Mexico; Singapore; Cape Town andJohannesburg in South Africa; Bangkok and Phuket in Thailand; and Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Time constraints, unavailability of ready verifiable data and sources, technical difficulties, disinterest if not uncooperativeness by a few prospects were pointed to by Woodman as some of the “culprits” for the “incomprehensiveness” of the first book. “It was as if only 12 among the 20 MT resource speakers saw (their presentations and profiles) print in theMAGAZINE MT Asia ‘07 sourcebook,” it was observed. Woodman promised, in a handwritten note to theMAGAZINE chief editor’s reviewer’s copy: “Hope to see The Philippines in second edition.” He was referring to the British edition of Patients Beyond Borders.
Advance reading copies of the book (with 12 March 2007 as publication date) bearing the authors’ notes were afforded the covering press led by Straits Times’ Lee Hui Chieh,Bloomberg’s Jean Chua (potential TV personality on-camera and not just on Bloomberg print edition called “Future Word’), Indian freelance writer Keith Emuang of emuang.org, and the Philippine press.
Reviewers were notified by publicist Heather Lagarde that the initial copies Woodman brought along in MT Asia ‘07 were “pre-publication galley, subject to final proofreading and facts-check.” She said, the final first edition will carry “a general index, a medical treatment index, a world map that will indicate destinations featured in part 2 (page 181), a treatment and country finder chart (page 183), and a pagination for the content table.”
BARGAIN VS VALUE IN ANYTHING, EVERYTHING. The Philippines’ press and media from Manila and Singapore met at MT Asia ‘07 Sheraton gallery in full force, unbeknownst to their respective parties. MT Asia ‘07 “official publication and media partner” theMAGAZINE – with Asia Pacific Biotech and Medical Tourism Insight – came in “four-force” (quadropoder) comprised by theMAGAZINE publisher Dr Hernan Delizo, theMAGAZINE associate publisher, Dr Luis Ramon V Rodriguez, theMAGAZINE contributing editor, DraMarissa dela Cruz Delizo, and this writer to give the definitive event the widest possible coverage, mileage and exposure. theMAGAZINE was initially “clueless” as to the SingTourBoard separate invitation to four other Manila press, namely the Philippine Star (PSYoungStar writer Jennifer Ong pitched in for her Oh so busy aunt PS Lifestyle co-editor of Millet Martinez-Mananquil, Miss Ching Alano, this theMAGAZINE writer’s colleague back at the Philippines Daily Express of yore) and Manila Times newspapers, and the Health Todayand Health News magazines, for the MT book launch, and “for Singapore hospitals tour,”Jeslyn Tan Shou Leng sounded off to theMAGAZINE . Keeping theMAGAZINE good company was a Filipina business writer Lis Rosagas of SmartInvestor affiliated with Sun Business Network (SBN). Courtesy calls of the MAGAZINE with SBN publishers and editors, courtesy of Rosagas, were reset due to time limitations.
Earlier, theMAGAZINE chanced upon at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport former Press Secretary of President Fidel V Ramos, Hector “Chito” Villanueva, who was this writer’s Publisher back in the Nineties at the Sunstar Manila of the Cebu-based Sunstar newspapers network. Numero uno Filipino painter of world reknown, Manuel Baldemor, who has been many a foreign embassy in Manila’s most sought-after artist, with a few Pinoy artistic colleagues, were also Singapore-bound. Now Postmaster-General of the Bureau of Post, Villanueva representing the privatized Philippine Postal Bank told theMAGAZINE , he was meeting overseas Filipino leaders abroad to negotiate “the putting up of their money where there mouths are” regarding the establishment of the dream OFW Bank by many Pinoy workers across the universe. Baldemor was strengthening ties with Pinoy artists who had called the Lee Kuan Yew city their home three and half hoursPhilippine Airlines (PAL) flight away from home.
Individually and collectively, the Philippine media were one in concluding, they were afforded “a grand time,” within and without the Sheraton Towers Hotel site of MT Asia ‘07 conference.
Sheraton Dining Room ‘s assistant manager, Mr _____ Gay, even went out of his way to offer theMAGAZINE lunch a la carte after buffet was closed at 2 in the afternoon. Broadway Hotel (at Little India)’s accommodating Ms Pauline _____ (she’d always greet theMAGAZINE “Kumusta?” or Hello, how are you?), one Indian gent (who would love to marry a Filipina someday), and a few Chinese officers and staff, were “as hospitable as the Filipinos.” So with Gary Lye of Peranakan Place at Emerald Hill (fronting a shopping building complex along Orchard Road that’s a wink away from IBC Asia headquarters and the great Pinay DHs’s Lucky Plaza hangout) that housed Alley Bar, Acid Bar, Rouge and Rouge Outdoors. theMAGAZINE’s Quadropoder had a grand dining time one leisurely night. Mr Lye’s Pinay trainees from a Bataan hotel and restaurant management school,Camella Enriquez, Sarah Nojadera and Mae Juayma Castillo (plus a gorgeous Singaporean chum of theirs who’s a moviestar lookalike) were doing “just fine” with their SGD1,200.00 gross monthly pay each that nets two-thirds lower due to very high cost of living in a flat, commuting with an underground MRT, and gimmicking here, there and everywhere whenever each can spare SGD15.00 per bottle of Tiger or Carlsberg beer for a moment (The Pinoys’ very own San Miguel Beer was most sought-after by tourists, but not much stocks are available)! Mustafa Centre at Little India is open 24/7, for round-the-clock foreign exchange and bargain quick-shops. Value versus bargain…
Back to the MT Asia ‘07 conference, Thailand’s Surapong Ambanwong was stunned when he heard from a Taiwanese speaker that it is “rock-bottom rate their medical travel procedures” in many Taiwanese hospitals, belying the former’s forethought that Bangkok has the lowest MT prices in the world. “What shall we do, what shall we do?,” the Thai MT TV host asked the audience many of whom are doctors and CEOs of healthcare provider organizations that are vying for a pie of the US$40-billion (by year 2010) world medical travel industry.