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June 24, 2017

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Medical service centers open at nation's airports

Taiwan yesterday unveiled medical service centers at its major airports in a move to promote medical tourism.

The International Health Liaison Center (IHLC) opened centers at airports in Taipei, Taoyuan, Taichung and Kaohsiung to provide advice to tourists seeking medical services in Taiwan.

President Ma Ying-jeou, presiding over a joint unveiling ceremony at Taipei's Songshan Airport, noted that revenues generated by Taiwan's international medical service sector have grown sharply from NT$1.9 billion in 2008 to NT$13 billion in 2013, and that there is still much room for growth.

The competitiveness of Taiwan's medical sector lies in its inexpensive quality services, Ma said.

Strict regulations have previously hampered the medical sector's development, but now the government has a two-stage roadmap for growth, by which individual hospitals will be allowed to develop their own services, followed by the establishment of special zones for such services, Ma said.

Last year, the number of tourists arriving in Taiwan reached 7.31 million, and this year it is expected to rise to 8 million. The government is looking to expand the scope of tourism from pure sightseeing to medical services.

Previously, tourists had to look for medical service providers with little clue as to the locations or details of such services, but the new IHLC outlets at airports now offer advice and recommendations, and can contact hospitals on behalf of tourists.

 The Ministry of Health and Welfare (MHW) said that there are currently 45 medical institutions in Taiwan that are qualified to serve such foreigners. Available services include treatments, check-ups and cosmetic procedures.

The number of people seeking such international medical services totaled 100,000 in 2011, rising to 170,000 in 2012, and the number is expected to reach a record 200,000 this year, the MHW said.

But the value generated by such services in Taiwan accounts for only 1 percent of the global total, and there is much room for further growth, judging from the high quality of Taiwan's medical services, the MHW said.

Wang Chih-kang, chairman of the Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA), said of the 200,000 people coming to Taiwan for medical purposes, about one-fourth received advice from TAITRA's offices around the world. Wang noted that 40 percent of those 200,000 are from China.

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