Taiwan grants entry permits for medical care
Updated: 2012-01-04 08:15
By Xie Yu (China Daily)
SHANGHAI - Health care providers in Taiwan can arrange "medical exams" or "beauty" trips for tourists from the Chinese mainland since authorities in Taiwan further relaxed control of mainland visitors to the island on Monday.
Previously, mainlanders could go to Taiwan for medical services, but they needed to arrange a tourist or business entry permit from the Taiwan authorities. The new policy makes healthcare an acceptable reason for mainlanders to visit Taiwan.
By last November, about 3 million tourists from the mainland arrived in Taiwan in groups since July 2008, according to a report submitted to China's legislature last year.
In July 2008, a ban on group tourism from the mainland was lifted by Taiwan authorities, and individual tourists are permitted from some cities.
Businesspeople in healthcare and aesthetic medicine believe the new policy will boost their business. In the past, many mainland residents went to Hong Kong or South Korea for medical and aesthetic treatment - including plastic surgery, weight reduction and skin care - but Taiwan could be a new option, because the cost of medical care is two-thirds or even half of that in Hong Kong and Singapore, and there is no language barrier.
Charles Yen, general manager of Taiwan Mal Health Management Co, told China Daily that the company has received "much more interest and inquiries from the mainland" since the group tour ban was lifted. But some customers balked at the inconvenience of a tourist or business entry permit.
"Now, with medical treatment recognized as a reason for applying for an entry permit, we are expecting more mainland customers," he said.
Yen said that compared with some other overseas options, medical institutions in Taiwan offer advantages such as speaking the same language, lower prices, advanced equipment and technology, but also the medical ethics of doctors in Taiwan.
"Our doctors do not accept hongbao (bribes). ... Many mainland customers said this shows that doctors are treating every one equally, and that gives a sense of security," he said.
Steve Zhang, an office worker in Chengdu, Sichuan province, said he would consider a medical trip to Taiwan if he had to wait for an appointment in Beijing or Shanghai.
"I believe mainland hospitals can provide qualified medical services nowadays, especially the big ones in Beijing and Shanghai. But if there were too many people waiting for limited doctors and hospital beds, going to Taiwan is a good choice," he said.
According to an online survey conducted in September by Qunaer.com, one of the mainland's leading tourism agencies, netizens chose Taiwan, following Hong Kong, as their second-favorite tourist destination outside the mainland.
The mainland is now Taiwan's largest tourist source region. Mainland tourists to Taiwan - traveling in groups or individually - reached a new high estimated at up to 1.8 million in 2011, surpassing 1.63 million in 2010. Taiwan media has estimated that 2 million mainlanders are expected to visit the island in 2012 as the authorities further loosen restrictions.