The Philippines is in the midst of a medical tourism boom, but its health system is already experiencing some challenges.
The country is home to some of the world’s largest pharmacies, and many of the nation’s patients are visiting the country to purchase medications and other medical supplies.
But these tourists, many of whom came with small groups of friends, are encountering a new issue as they travel to the country’s largest city, Manila, to shop for supplies.
The Philippine Health Insurance Authority said Monday that the number of foreign tourists to the Philippines jumped from 6,000 in October to 12,000 this month, while imports dropped to a new low of 2,500 last month.
The agency said foreign tourists accounted for more than half of all the tourists in the country, a number that has been on the rise since the outbreak of the pandemic.
Healthcare services are a major source of revenue for the Philippines, which is the worlds largest economy.
While the country has about 30 million residents, it has an estimated 1.7 million health professionals, which make up more than one-third of the entire workforce.
In addition to pharmacy sales, the country also receives much of its budget from medical supplies, particularly for chronic conditions like diabetes, arthritis, and heart conditions.
The Philippines’ Health Insurance Board, which administers the program, said the surge in foreign visitors is an issue because of the rising number of patients.
“There’s an imbalance in the supply of goods and services that the health care system is getting.
The increase of foreigners is creating a situation that will continue to increase,” Health Insurance Minister Edwin Lacson said in a speech to doctors and pharmacists.
Lacson said the health system should not become dependent on foreign tourists, but should make up for the shortage by offering health care services to the foreign community.
“We can offer them the same services and help them get to the same destinations,” Lacson told reporters.
“This is the best way for us to fulfill the health and welfare of our people.”