18 April 2014

MALTA: Government plans to promote niche areas of medical tourism

IMTJ 03/04/2014: As Malta’s tourism industry recovers from recent woes, the government plans to promote niche tourism areas. One of these is medical and health tourism, where previous campaigns failed due to lack of co-ordination and lack of focus. The biggest reason for previous failures was that the government made encouraging noises but was reluctant to spend money or energy in positive help for local businesses.

Malta could attract a considerable amount of medical tourism ­ but not without government help, according to a German surgeon who has set up practice in Malta. Ulrik Rebers and his wife Xenia Lorenz Rebers have opened the International Knee and Hip Centre – Malta at the Prince of Wales complex in Sliema, offering knee and hip replacements at Saint James Hospital.

The surgeon has operated in Malta on thousands of people in recent years, but almost all of these have been residents of Malta, local and foreign, rather than people who went to Malta for treatment. He argues that it is now a good time to target other EU countries, “I was involved in marketing medical tourism from the Netherlands to our former base north of Dusseldorf but Malta is not branded overseas for medical tourism. If we tried it alone it would take four to five years to even get a foothold. To be effective it needs a coordinated thrust by the government

Rebers’ latest centre opened a few weeks ago, and uses computers to create 3D images to ensure the most accurate surgery available, aligning the new joint across various axes such as left and right, leg-length and rotation. He explains, “Research showed that almost a third of replacements did not achieve...read on.