Opening remarks by the President of the ADTS at the Inaugural Cocktail of the Third International Congress of Health and Welfare Tourism

Good evening, members of the Advisory Board of the Dominican Association of Health Tourism and executives of AF Strategic Communication, hosts of this event, Minister of Public Health Dr. Altagracia Guzmán Marcelino, Vice Minister of Tourism Mr. Fausto Fernández, who we accompanies as Minister representing the Minister of Tourism Lic. Francisco Javier García, present authorities, honorable members of the Diplomatic Corps and the Accredited Consular Corps in the country, speakers, international guests, sponsors, organizations that support us, participants, members of the press, ladies and gentlemen, all friends. ”

It is a matter of great satisfaction to be able to share with you a brief tour of the actions carried out by the Dominican Association of Health Tourism (ADTS), at a time when the health sector of our country is hopeful with perspectives of profound changes that will transform The practice of Dominican medicine. The creation of a single public service network, the change of tertiary care model towards a preventive model, with primary care as a gateway, the inclusion of thousands of Dominicans to family health insurance and the adoption of a management model Government that bets on public-private partnerships and improve management and assistance schedules, are steps in the right direction.

All these efforts to fully implement the reform of the health system require, in an indispensable way, a qualified staff, with the relevant competences and duly motivated. For this, the country must focus on the certifications and recertifications of specialists, as well as the allocation of better salaries and incentives for productivity and quality.

ADTS joins these government initiatives and we call on all sectors involved to integrate. It is the appropriate time to create solid foundations to implement progressive measures aimed at improving equity and medical care, so we share the will to give way to what has never been done, to ensure that people with less economic resources have access to Quality health services and develop an exportable health product.

This transformation began and, ADTS joins in promoting the improvement of the quality and safety of health services in the Dominican Republic. Today, millions of patients are traveling to different cities and countries to receive medical and dental care. Health tourism is one of the productive activities of the fastest growing sector worldwide, representing more than 70 billion dollars annually and 2.5% of air travel, according to figures from the Medical Tourism Association (MTA).

According to the United States Federal Court System, 56 million Americans under 65 have difficulties in paying their medical expenses. About 15 million Americans will spend their savings paying medical bills. 1.7 million Americans will declare bankruptcy due to high medical costs. More than 40 million Americans do not have health insurance. This situation presents a declining panorama of the quality of life of the American population, which is suffering the consequences of an excessively expensive health system. But, at the same time, it constitutes a great opportunity for the Dominican Republic, which is already a tourist power and has set the goal of reaching 10 million visitors a year by 2023.

A medical tourist spends 8 times more than a conventional tourist. It is important to highlight that more than 80% of patients travel accompanied and have longer stays, without seasonality, so without a doubt, health tourism represents a great opportunity to diversify our tourism offer and constitutes a new niche for the sectors of the country that are part of its value chain. Tour operators, travel agencies, hotels, airlines, medical facilitators, health professionals, dentistry, language schools, translators, law firms, international and passenger insurance, universities, real estate, transportation, pharmaceutical, certification bodies , accreditors, consultants, among others, should be inserted in an organized and proactive manner.

As we can see, health tourism is an activity with an important transversal effect by encouraging the transfer of technologies, knowledge and foreign investment in local territory. This investment allows us to modernize and increase our installed capacity in health and competitiveness with new projects, stimulating continuous improvement and process safety.

At the same time, these projects contribute to the creation of well-paid jobs, thereby promoting the development of the country. Health tourism also promotes real estate tourism and retirement tourism. But we must be clear that in order to move safely along this path it is important that we keep in mind the common factors of consolidated health tourism destinations.

According to Patients Beyond Borders, the main health tourism destinations are: Costa Rica, India, Israel, Mexico, Singapore, Thailand, Turkey and the United States. All these countries share common factors that have positioned them as preferred locations within which they should be highlighted:

  • Public and private investment in hospital infrastructure and cutting-edge technology.
  • Demonstrable commitment with international accreditation and the quality and safety of health services.
  • Reliable and systematic statistics, as well as transparency of results, achievements and opportunities for improvement.
  • Strong tourism infrastructure and flow of international visitors and patients.
  • Cost savings in medical procedures and / or history of achievements and scientific advances.
  • Political transparency and macroeconomic stability.
  • Reputation of centers of excellence.
  • Successful adoption of best practices and culture of continuous improvement.
  • Highly qualified and bilingual medical and technical staff.

Our country undoubtedly presents favorable conditions to establish itself as a health and well-being destination, which brings greater added value to the Dominican economy. Within these conditions we can highlight, very competitive costs of our health services compared to first world countries, the existence of health centers in the process of international accreditation and with international departments.

Our favorable climate and geographical position place us as an easily accessible point for the main issuing markets, as well as the great experience and success of the tourism and hotel industry that we must safeguard at all times. We are a country blessed with our beautiful beaches and attractions, culture of hospitality, warmth of Dominicans, infrastructure and social peace.

However, the Dominican Association of Health Tourism (ADTS) and the Observatory of the Health System of the Dominican Republic (OSRD) consider that the main challenge facing the Dominican Republic to place itself as a competitive health tourism destination, is guarantee the quality and safety of the service offer. As a country, we must make a determined and continuous effort to improve the quality of the entire health system, so it is essential that local qualification criteria, management protocols and infection prevention are met.

To strengthen ourselves, an adequate regulatory framework and a government and private strategy for the incentive and use of this industry are required. It is very important to develop a local quality seal to identify qualified suppliers to provide health tourism services and the formation of clusters. In that sense, it is very important to motivate the country’s health centers to seek international certifications and accreditations, all of which drives a process of organizational culture change throughout the health system.

We are currently working on the strategic planning of the sector together with the Ministries of Tourism, Public Health, ASONAHORES and other entities, where we have proposed a bill to strengthen, regulate and encourage medical tourism.

We have made alliances with international accrediting entities so that our members can access them with better conditions and costs. The Universidad Iberoamericana, together with the ADTS and the Medical Tourism Association, are carrying out the second edition of international certifications in medical tourism, aimed at professionals in the health, tourism, travel agencies, tour operators, airlines and investors sectors. We are carrying out information surveys and statistics of the sector by the Observatory of the Health System (OSRD).

We encourage local and foreign direct investment (FDI), for which we have made agreements with the Center for Alternative Dispute Resolution of the Chamber of Commerce and Production of Santo Domingo promoting the security of investment in the sector, as well as arbitration, conciliation and mediation as discrete mechanisms for alternative dispute resolution. Similarly, we are working with the Accredited Consular Corps and with the Export and Investment Center of the Dominican Republic to promote the country as an investment destination in the health, pharmaceutical, medical device manufacturing and research industries.

In September 2015, together with some of the main health centers in the country, we presented the Dominican health offer to the international community at the global medical tourism congress, launching the first edition of the Health and Wellness Tourism Guide of the country in that scenario. Currently, together with the Medical Tourism Association (MTA), several government entities and the coordination of local content by AF Strategic Communication, we are carrying out its second edition, where health centers, professionals, hotels and members of the value chain are identified of the industry.

Health tourism is a brilliant opportunity for the development of the country’s economy, by encouraging its growth, its levels of formal employment and its foreign exchange earnings. We are convinced that health tourism will drive the continuous improvement of the quality of health services, aligning ourselves with the government strategy to improve the health of the Dominican population. Thank you very much to all of you for the support you have offered to make this event a reality.

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