Cebu’s medical tourism gets boost

By Victor Anthony V. Silva June 26,2017

MEDICAL tourism in Cebu, particularly in the field of dentistry, can expect to get a helping hand as one of the country’s pioneers in the industry recently opened its biggest clinic here.

Dr. Steve Mark Gan, founder of Gan Advanced Osseointegration Center (GAOC), said Cebu is a thriving city they needed to explore and that a lot of tourists come to visit the urban center.

“I don’t have the statistics, but I do know there are over 400 dentists (here), and are very skilled. Most travelers around the region, especially from America and Australia, they come to Metro Manila first,” he said during the opening of GAOC’s clinic at SM Seaside City Cebu last Saturday.

Aside from the city’s potential, he said he decided to set up his biggest clinic here as an excuse to come to Cebu more often, adding that it is home to the best food and the friendliest people.

GAOC’s biggest clinic to date has a 400-square-meter office complete with an imaging center, dental laboratory, and surgery center, among others.

The dental center currently has eight clinics which included those located in Medical Plaza in Makati; St. Lukes’ Medical Center in Global City, Taguig; and The Residences at Greenbelt, Makati.

Since its founding in 2001, GAOC has been recognized as a trailblazer in dental implant surgery, offering an extensive range of services from general dentistry to oral surgery and periodontics, orthodontics, pediatric dentistry, prosthodontics, as well as cosmetic and laser dentistry.

With the opening of the dental center’s clinic here, Cebu can hope to play a role in the industry’s efforts to have the Philippines recognized as a major player in dental health across the globe.

Tertiary hospitals

The medical tourism industry in Cebu already shows promise being host to three tertiary care hospitals as well as several specialty centers including a cancer institute and a heart center.

Many foreigners, particularly Americans and Australians, choose to come to the Philippines for low-cost aesthetic and dental procedures.

Dental implants in US hospitals cost $3,500 to $5,000 while these procedures only cost $500 to $600 in the Philippines, allowing patients to save up to 89 percent.

The Philippines’ closest competitors in the Asean region are Singapore and Thailand, but services in the country still cost 40 percent less than the two others.

Gan, a former chairman of the Board of Dentistry, said that while this was an advantage, the goal is for medical tourists to come to the Philippines not only because of relatively cheap procedure costs, but because of the high quality of services medical practitioners provide.

“Filipinos are highly-skilled dentists, yet we lack resources,” he said.

Paradigm shift

He said that the dental health industry goes through a paradigm shift every five years, making it easy for new dentists to catch up but would require older dentists to innovate. Many among the latter, however, do not want to change.

“We lack resources in terms of technology and also in the quality of products. We source our products from China, which plays a volumes game, but there’s also Germany and others, which can provide better. In order to move forward, we need to step up,” he said.

The Philippines was ranked 8th most preferred medical tourism destination in the world in 2015, raking in 80,000 to 250,000 medical travelers in the last two years.

According to Department of Tourism (DOT) data, the Philippines generated $3 billion in revenues and welcomed 200,000 tourists through medical tourism in 2015.

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