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New Southbound medical program expands to seventh country

10/02/2019 Taipei Taiwan

Last June the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) created the New Southbound Nations Medical Team to further develop the soft power of Taiwanese medical assistance and expand Taiwan’s influence among countries in Southeast Asia. Last year the number of international patients grew by 15.4% from the previous year. In addition, a total of 336 foreign medical personnel came to Taiwan for training, far in excess of the original target of 200, and this year the group aims to surpass the 2018 total. The core program’s “one country, one coordinator” plan has also grown from six countries to seven, with Myanmar being added this year. The program hopes to assist in developing medical care in Southeast Asia while also driving Taiwanese industrial growth.

The MOHW’s Southbound “one country, one coordinator” plan initially focused efforts on six countries (Indonesia, India, Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines, and Malaysia), which were separately managed by six hospitals (NTU, NCKU, Taipei Veterans General Hospital-NYMU, Changhua Christian Hospital, Hualien Tzu Chi Hospital, and Chang Bing Show Chwan, respectively). This year the flagship healthcare program under the government’s New Southbound Policy initiated a new round of bidding, and Chang Gung Memorial Hospital beat out Chang Bing Show Chwan to become the coordinator for Malaysia. The other five countries will still be overseen by the original five hospitals, and the Shin Kong Hospital will become the coordinator for the newly added Myanmar.

Director general of the Department of Medical Affairs Shih Chung-Liang says that with regard to global trends in the medical care industry, the Asia-Pacific region is growing at a rate of 5%, surpassing all other regions. Growth in the region will likely continue due to the demand for cross-border medical treatment. Southeast Asian nations generally recognize Singapore as a leader in high-end medical care, and it is often the first choice for those seeking treatment overseas, whereas Taiwan is less well-known internationally. In order to elevate the brand image and status of Taiwanese medical care and assist in establishing diplomatic and trade relations, the MOHW is sparing no effort in reaching out to countries in Southeast Asia.

Director of the MOHW’s Office of International Cooperation Hsu Min-Huei states that Taiwan is taking the initiative in assisting the New Southbound countries develop their medical care. For example in the Philippines, second only to Indonesia in size, chronic kidney diseases are among the leading causes of death. After consultation with the Taiwanese representative office, six medical professionals were sent to Taiwan to learn about extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). Near the end of last year they also participated in a 12-day training course at NTU Hospital, which was very well received. In addition, Taiwan also continues to receive orders for smart medical devices from Vietnam and Thailand, and in turn this form of soft power is driving the development of Taiwan’s medical industry.

Chief Executive of the MOHW’s International Medical Management Working Group Wu-Ming-Yan notes that the number of patients coming to Taiwan from ASEAN member states is second only to China. By country, Vietnam is ASEAN’s largest source of international patients, followed in rank order by Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Myanmar. In the same year the New Southbound medical program kicked off, the number of international patients from ASEAN countries increased by 15.4% from 2017. Taiwan has already begun to see returns, and the MOHW believes this year will be even better.


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