ATHENS – Despite big health care cuts, there is belief that Greece could be a hub for medical tourism that could bring in critical revenues during a crushing economic crisis.
The ministries of tourism and health created a legal framework to allow tourists to come to Greece for medical care but so far there’s been little interest, Kathimerini reported.
The Association of Hellenic Tourism Enterprises (SETE) and the Hellenic Chamber of Hotels are particularly keen on the topic and SETE included medical tourism among the products to help tourism revenues grow.
A study by Yiannis Tountas, professor at the Medical School of the University of Athens, was presented during an event organized by the hotel chamber and concluded that in the next decade Greece could earn some 2 billion euros from medical tourism with the arrival of 400,000 patients.
Greece has been losing out to rivals such as Turkey, whose health ministry has estimated that total revenues from healthcare tourism there could grow from $5 billion to $20 billion per year by 2023.
Panayiotis Papangelopoulos, orthopedics professor at the University of Athens, told Kathimerini that Greece today has adequate medical staff, equipment and infrastructure and competitive prices to attract patients from abroad who will combine treatment and recuperation with vacations in Greece.
That clashes with other reports by doctors and hospitals that they are short staffed and don’t have necessary supplies – sometimes even toilet paper or syringes – because the government has cut back so sharply on health care expenses as part of demands from international lenders to reduce spending.
What Greece can offer is far lower prices for medical procedures than in other countries, particularly in the United Kingdom and the United States. A patient with a thigh tumor, it was said paid the equivalent of 250,000 euros for operations in the U.S. and would have paid 35,000 euros in Greece.