Written by Claudine Wehbe
Translated by Daisy Khalil
NNA - Health tourism is one of the most developed tourism forms in Lebanon. It evolves with the evolution of health and medical services. Lebanon has always been depicted "the Middle East hospital" owing to its advanced health sector which makes it unique in its surrounding.
Health tourism aims, primarily, at treating critical diseases or performing complex surgical procedures that require precision and experience. In fact, Lebanon enjoys the most renowned medical centers in the Middle East, with top-notch medical and scientific equipment similar to those found in the best medical centers in Europe and the United States.
Lebanon has the most advanced therapeutic clinics enabled to treat serious diseases such as tuberculosis. Among these clinics -- which are typically located in the mountains -- is "Bhannes Medical Center" which was inaugurated by the Ottoman Mutasarrif, Ohannes Pasha, in 1909 to treat TB patients.
Today, BMC includes several medical departments, namely a center for physical rehabilitation and a school for children with special needs, mainly those suffering quadriplegia or needing dialysis. The clinic is also sought for the treatment of bone diseases. Moreover, it includes a drug addiction treatment facility, and another for psychiatric illness, in addition to nursing homes for the elderly.
Furthermore, since the cultural and economic development in the region reflected a change in living patterns, the cosmetic health tourism boomed in Lebanon and reconstructive surgery became very prominent among all types of health tourism, given the distinctive skills of doctors and the professionalism of hospitals and clinics which offer a wide range of medical treatments and cosmetic operations for Lebanese and non-Lebanese, thus turning Lebanon into a popular destination for health tourism for various Middle Eastern countries.
Advisor of Lebanon's Minister of Public Health, Dr. Bahij Arbid, said in a chat with the National News Agency that "Lebanon is indeed the Middle East's center for hospitalization services as it excels in orthopedics, spine treatment, organ transplant, and heart and arteries diseases, in addition to its advanced cancer treatments."
"Thousands of patients from neighboring Arab countries used to come to Lebanon for treatment, but unfortunately, in recent years, the number of tourists from Gulf countries shrunk, which caused a decline in medical tourism rates. Today, this rate is limited to Jordanians, Iraqis and some Arabs from African countries."
He pointed out that "the cabinet issued back in July 2001 a decree to establish a National Commission for the development of health tourism comprising representatives from the ministries of Health, Tourism, Environment, and Information, as well as delegates from physicians, hospitals, and hotels Unions and travel and insurance companies."
"Concerned Lebanese official circles deem this tourism top priority," he assured, noting that Lebanon has more than 70 medical specialties and more than 12 thousand doctors in those various specialties.
"The Lebanese hospitalization sector includes 161 hospitals, among them seven university hospitals some of which internationally adopted," he went on.
It is worth mentioning that many of the hospitals and medical centers in Lebanon are accredited to the ISO 9000 standard, and most of them receive patients suffering critical health conditions and successfully carry major surgeries on them.