COVID-19 cuts medical tourists to Mashhad

Due to the travel restrictions imposed by Iran and neighbouring countries, the number of medical and health tourists visiting medical centres and hospitals in Mashhad has decreased significantly and new admission of non-emergency foreign patients has stopped, according to Esmaeil Khayyami, the health tourism manager of Mashhad University of Medical Sciences. It is estimated that the number of medical tourists in Mashhad has fallen by 95% this year.

After Tehran, Mashhad has the most medical tourists in Iran.

Medical tourists admitted to Mashhad hospitals and medical centres are of 55 different nationalities, more than 60% of whom are from Iraq and the rest are from Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan.

14 hospitals and three medical centres are licensed to offer special services to foreign patients in Mashhad, who are mostly seeking open-heart surgery, vascular surgery, general surgery, orthopaedics, skin, hair and beauty services, dental services, as well as women’s and infertility services.

Iranian hospitals admitted 70,000 foreign patients over the Iranian calendar year 1397 (March 2018 – March 2019) and it made an economic contribution of around US$1.2 billion to the country, according to the medical tourism department at the Ministry of Health.

Iran has the capacity to annually earn US$7 billion in medical and health tourism, though the sector now brings in only one-seventh or possibly less.

The Islamic Republic has set its goals to grow its yearly medical traveller numbers to 2 million in calendar year 1404.