DR. NAZIH GHARIOS
Lebanon boasts excellent doctors who are trained at the best universities and hospitals worldwide. The quality level of nurses is also very high. It is very important to have that structure. The quality levels of our facilities at Mount Lebanon Hospital are the highest, and we are very strict about cleanliness. The same levels of cleanliness are not seen at hospitals in the region. We have received accreditation from the Ministry of Health, and in accordance we must pass a test every two years. This hospital passed with the highest grade in 2011. Achieving the highest rating gives us an advantage over other hospitals. This is important to us because we are professionals. The staff here have a long history in this sector. We see many patients from Iraq and also from Syria. Many also come from the Gulf region. In addition, there are many Lebanese expatriates coming back for treatment. Patients even come from as far away as Canada, as waiting lists for hip prosthesis and replacement can be as much as six months long. We also see patients coming for kidney transplants, as world waiting lists are also not favorable.
DR. WASSIM WAZZAN
We are always looking forward, especially with what is happening in the Arab world. We feel that we are becoming more stable. We want Lebanon to re-emerge as a haven for tourism. We see a lot of patients from the Gulf area, as well as from Iraq and Syria. Lebanon has great potential. Our health system is advanced for the region. We would like to attract health tourism from all over the world. We have the means, and I think our rates are much better than anywhere else. Patients come here because the waiting period is much shorter and we have an availability of resources. For example, we have a lot of CT scanners. In fact, we sometimes feel we have much more than we need.
DR. KAMAL J. BIKHAZI
Lebanon has not been stable for a very long period of time. We asked KPMG to evaluate our hospital. They came in and worked for some time and said there really has not been a normal year to come in and look at your balance sheets and come up with any meaningful evaluation. In 2005, the prime minister was assassinated. In 2006, there was a war with Israel. In 2007, there were the strikes downtown. In 2008, there was an internal conflict, and in 2009, there was an election. We never have normal years, and unfortunately this affects most of the area for many years. Therefore, medical tourism is related to stability. When I was a resident, I remember we used to have a lot of people coming from Arab countries. I remember it was not unusual for a surgeon after an operation to get a Cadillac as a present, or a diamond ring for his wife as a present. That used to be very common in those days. But those countries these days have their own very sophisticated facilities now and their own staff of nationals, and those that do not have nationals bring in physicians externally to run their medical centers. In that respect, medical tourism still exists, but I do not think it is a major issue. However, this year people coming from Iraq have boosted the numbers, and we have contracts with some agencies that bring us complicated cases. However, medical tourism accounts for no more than 10% or 15% of our total load.
DR. ROGER EL KHOURY
My father used to tell me there is no elevator to success; you must always take the stairs. The reputation comes from your patients, and this is your strength because nobody can take it away from you. You can build a reputation through media exposure, by putting my face all over the billboards and becoming very famous, but this is fragile. When you have a satisfied patient, your work spreads through word of mouth. It’s my job and it’s a business also, but we must keep in the back of our minds that it is a part of medicine and we must have medical ethics. I am internationally certified so I can also practice at Beirut Beauty Clinic in Kuwait. People from the US can go to Thailand where the service is cheap. People want surgery to fit around their time, but they don’t make bargains with their health. The price is certainly a factor, but I think if they questioned the quality they would not come and have surgery here. They know we have the same standards for quality and safety as the US and they come because they pay less. Lebanese doctors are well trained in the US and Europe, giving very good results. Lastly, people in the GCC see our ambassadors of plastic surgery: our singers, our television presenters, and even some politicians. All these factors came together to make Lebanon a country for plastic surgery.
The medical tourism sector is huge. People come from all over the region to take advantage of Lebanon’s well-developed medical services sector. We stay open for business on Sundays just to be able to receive clients from all over the region, especially during high tourist periods. In the summer season 50% of our clients are foreigners. The Lebanese workforce is really the reason why the medical sector has taken off so well here. Being Lebanese is a great plus when it comes to trying to attract customers, and that is also boosted by the multiculturalism that our country men and women enjoy, meaning the Lebanese can build great relationships with people from all over the world.
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