Lessons from India for Ghana’s medical travel sector

A research report reveals and analyses Ghana’s plans to develop medical tourism, and provides lessons from India. Ghana remains in the early stages of development of their medical travel sector – little has moved beyond planning stage.

A report has been written for the University of Ghana by Yvonne Danquah, titled “Prospects of Medical Tourism in Developing Countries: Lessons from India for Ghana’s Health Sector”.

This research examines India’s health delivery sector to learn about its best practices in medical tourism and analyses the Indian health tourism sector to pick out what Ghana can learn to boost the nation’s health delivery system.

Ghana’s medical tourism sector is struggling mainly due to a lack of investment from the government and the private sector, little support and recognition by the government, low levels of advertisement, inadequate infrastructure and staff, as well as an absence of regulation in the sector.

Ghana is in the early stages of development of their medical tourism sector and services are provided mainly to patients from neighbouring countries.

The study recommends that the government of Ghana should consider providing subsidies and tax incentives for the health facilities involved in the sector to enable growth in the sector.

The public health sector should also be encouraged to collect and keep information on medical tourism in Ghana.

Many Ghanaians travel outside the country in search of medical treatment. The government of Ghana charged the Ghana Health Service to set up a medical tourism committee in 2018 as part of the GHS preparatory plans for medical tourism in Ghana.

The committee was tasked with compiling major hospitals and procedures that can be handled locally as well as their comparative prices along with a list of specialists who are ready to support the initiative.

The committee evaluated how government could increase national income by taking advantage of medical tourism and how the general standards of healthcare could be improved through medical tourism.

The report was submitted to the GHS Council, which has to approve it and forward it to the Ministry of Health.

The committee decided against proposing a health city and instead advocated for a pilot before assessing a national plan. It also advocated the issuance of medical visas to help ease the movement of medical tourists.

Plans are in place for collaboration with the Bank of Ghana to devise foreign exchange mechanisms to enable the direct payment of health services fees to the health institutions by medical tourists.

The committee proposed a multisectoral regulatory and monitory body for medical tourism that will inspect and approve public and private hospitals seeking to offer medical tourism and gather statistics. The rise of ancillary sectors to the medical tourism industry such as medical tourism agencies and insurance companies, which provide products for medical tourists, will also be regulated by the secretariat.

It also proposed a medical tourism organisation to promote inbound medical tourism with a website. The committee appears to have reported, but government has not announced any plans to promote medical tourism.