(MENAFN - Jordan Times) The Health Ministry on Saturday said rapid population growth, coupled with the recurring influx of refugees from neighbouring countries and the inefficient provision and financing of health services, are among the most important challenges facing the local medical sector.
Deputising for Prime Minister Nader Dahabi at the opening of the Kingdom's first International Medical Tourism Congress, Health Minister Salah Mawajdeh said health expenditure in Jordan, which has an annual population growth of 2.2 per cent, amounted to 1.311 billion, 45 per cent of which was borne by the public sector.
"Medical expenditure in the Kingdom constitutes 9.8 per cent of the GDP, as 86 per cent of the population is covered by health insurance," the minister said. Briefing participants on the country's socio-economic and health indicators, he noted that the annual average life expectancy for 2008 stood at 71.6 years among males and 74.4 years among females.
Meanwhile, medical tourism in Jordan is gaining momentum due to its contribution to the national economy, Abdullah Bashir, director of the Jordan Hospital and the medical tourism congress chairman, told participants at the four-day event.
"Jordan has achieved an advanced status in the field of medical tourism due to the sector's medical, human and technical potentials which earned the country an outstanding reputation in the region and the world," Bashir added.
Medical tourism experts at the World Bank have ranked Jordan number one in the Arab region and the fifth in the world as a medical tourism hub, according to Fawzi Hammouri, president of the Private Hospitals Association and director of the Specialty Hospital.
"The medical tourism sector annually generates over 1 billion in revenues, as the number of foreign patients seeking treatment in the Kingdom stands at over 200,000 per year," Hammouri said in a statement sent to The Jordan Times yesterday.
"We are seeking to maintain and improve this bright image even more through reaching new markets in Europe, Asia and the US," he added.
As part of these efforts, the US-based Medical Treatment Association (MTA), which owns and issues a magazine specialised in medical tourism, will issue a special edition on the Kingdom's potential as a destination for patients from all over the world.
MTA President Jonathan Edelheit called on sector stakeholders in the Kingdom to benefit from the global economic recession by attracting more US patients for treatment in Jordan by highlighting its competitive treatment costs.
More than 750,000 US citizens travelled abroad for treatment in 2008, according to the MTA, which expects this figure to exceed six million by 2010.
Meanwhile, stakeholders held discussions on medical sector goals and needs as well as ways to build on its strengths and address its weaknesses yesterday, according to the organisers.
The sessions also focused on regulatory, legal and policy reforms that will assist patients coming into the Kingdom, protect their rights and provide them with high-quality services, they added.
Participants will also look into ways to enhance the capacity and efficiency of medical service providers in order to increase revenues.