Medical tourism, a new aspect of Iran-Pakistan ties
30 June 2018

Medical tourism, a new aspect of Iran-Pakistan ties

Islamabad, June 30, IRNA - Iran and Pakistan have tremendous potential for medical tourism as the people of Pakistan can greatly benefit from Iranian health facilities which would also help in strengthening ties between the two brotherly Muslim countries. Medical tourism refers to people traveling to a country other than their own to obtain medical treatment. Iran is gradually becoming a destination for foreign medical tourists. Hospitals in Iranian cities offer medical and health care services for foreign medical tourists. Patients from Kuwait, Qatar and other countries prefer Iran for the medical treatment which is providing cheaper facilities than European countries. Iran is one of the major tourism destinations in the world and the tourists coming to Iran can also become a major source for informing the people of their countries about the advance health facilities of Iran. Earlier many Pakistanis used to travel to India for medical treatment especially related to kidney and liver diseases but after the deteriorating ties between the two countries India imposed an unannounced ban on Pakistani travelers. However, Iran with its large medical facility network can easily replace India for Pakistani patients and can also help in further enhancing bilateral ties. The demand for Iranian healthcare services is also skyrocketing. They had nearly 30,000 foreign patients in 2012 and this has gone up to almost 200,000 in 2015 and this has increases further in coming years. Last year Iranian Minister of Health, Hassan Qazizadeh Hashemi and Pakistani Health Minister Saira Afzal Tarar in a meeting agreed to enhance cooperation in health tourism. In June this year Iranian doctors from Shiraz visited Pakistan and performed seven successful liver transplants at the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation (SIUT) of Pakistan. Shiraz Centre of Transplantation is one of the largest of its kind in the region. The Iranian doctors’ visit was part of a collaborative program between the two medical institutions. Iran is one of the top five countries in the world in biotech and nine out of 15 high usage biotech molecules are produced in Iran. So Iran has a great opportunity to attract medical tourists of Islamic and regional countries. Iran has best facilities for heart surgery, cosmetic surgery, and eye surgery. It also produces unique high-tech drugs. Razavi Hospital in Mashhad is one of the best hospitals in the world and Pakistani pilgrims going to the holy city can experience the facility by visiting it. Noor eye hospital and clinic in Tehran is also highly equipped and most advanced eye hospital in the region. Iranians and Pakistanis share the same cuisine, culture, and traditions. Therefore, the environment of Iran is very much similar to that of Pakistan and it would be rather easy for Pakistanis to relate with the surrounding in Iran. Mian Muhammad Ateeq Shaikh, Chairperson of Pakistan’s Senate Committee on National Health Services Regulations and Coordination talking to IRNA said that there is a need to create awareness in Pakistani public about the health facilities of Iran. “I see bright scope of cooperation between Iran and Pakistan in medical tourism sector but we should take some practical steps in this regards,” he said. He said that we should start a social media campaign to promote Iranian health facilities in Pakistan. He added that Iranian heath authorities should prepare pamphlets about Iran health tourism and distribute them among the Pakistani pilgrims so that they can inform Pakistani public about Iranian health facilities. The politician added geographical closeness and cultural and religious similarities could turn Iran into one of the best and most economically reasonable destinations for Pakistani patients. The Senator was of the view that Iranian health authorities should send some medical experts to Pakistan to inform Pakistani health committees about Iranian medical tourism. The ambassador of Iran to Pakistan Mehdi Honardoost talking to local media said that Iran and Pakistan are two close friends, adding that Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has already directed that Pakistan should be given priority in Iran’s foreign policy. He said that Iranian embassy is providing best facilities to the Pakistani pilgrims and various steps have been taken in this regards. The envoy went on to say that ending medical certificate condition for visa seeking Pakistanis is a major step taken by the embassy to facilitate pilgrims. Following the development, Pakistanis can now apply for Iranian visa without submitting their medical certificate. Mehdi Honardoost added that the embassy is charging very nominal visa fee from Pakistan pilgrims. He added that Iran is also willing to enhance cooperation with Pakistan in medical tourism. Iran has already produced rules and regulations for tourist health care service centers so that hospitals and clinics that want to offer health tourism services to foreign citizens need to acquire licenses from both the Ministry of Health and Iranian Tourism Organization. Offering health service training to employees of tourism agencies and opening international patients’ wards at the hospitals are among the other already adopted measures by the Health, Remedy and Medical Training Ministry. 1378/IRNA