Indonesia partners US' Mayo Clinic to build international hospital in Bali

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JAKARTA - Indonesia is collaborating with the United States' renowned Mayo Clinic to build an international hospital on Bali island, in a bid to reduce the number of Indonesians seeking treatment abroad and to redirect billions of dollars in their annual medical spending into the local healthcare sector.

The resort island is one of three locations that Indonesia has planned to build international hospitals. The other two locations are capital Jakarta and Medan, the largest city in the country's second most populous island of Sumatra.

The new Bali International Hospital is expected to be operational in mid-2023, President Joko Widodo said during the ground-breaking ceremony in Sanur, Bali, on Monday (Dec 27).

"We hope Bali will become a special economic zone for the health sector, and hopefully by then, there will be no more Indonesians travelling overseas to seek medical treatment," Mr Widodo said.

Citing government estimates, he said that every year, Indonesians spent 93 trillion rupiah (S$8.9 billion) on medical treatment overseas.

Earlier government estimates showed that at least 600,000 Indonesian "medical tourists" a year went overseas for treatment, most of them heading to Singapore and Malaysia, with each spending between US$3,000 (S$4,075) and US$10,000.

It is a significant sum, compared with Indonesia's gross domestic product per capita of around US$4,000.

With the plan, the government hopes to save on foreign exchange outflows from an economy that has been badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

It has said that if the total sum each year is spent domestically instead, jobs would be created and foreign investors would pump in money into healthcare services.

The location of the Bali International Hospital will be in a Sanur coastal land adjacent to Grand Inna Bali Beach Resort.

Mr Widodo said the hospital will offer treatments in areas such as oncology. No other details were disclosed by the government.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo at the ground-breaking ceremony of the construction of the Bali International Hospital in Sanur, on Dec 27, 2021. PHOTO: INDONESIAN PRESIDENTIAL PALACE

The Straits Times (ST) understands that Indonesia's private sector is also eyeing the health sector in Bali, including a company run by a noted social entrepreneur, who spoke on condition of anonymity and declined to give details.

Investments in the health sector would create an additional source of income for the Balinese who have been direly affected by the pandemic as the island has been too reliant on tourism.

Bali is among the provinces that recorded the steepest economic decline.

The new Bali International Hospital would overlook Sanur beach in Bali. ST PHOTO: WAHYUDI SOERIAATMADJA

A regulation amendment would be needed to allow foreign medical specialists to practise in Indonesia, according to the Indonesian doctors' association.

Currently, foreign doctors have to pass the local doctor's exam and obtain a licence before they can practise in Indonesia.

The government, however, had earlier pledged that the process of getting a licence would be simplified, but only foreign doctors with very high expertise are allowed so that local doctors would benefit from the transfer of knowledge.

Professor Frans Santosa, a medical doctor who spent 20 years of his career in Germany, sees the government's plan as feasible, pointing out that Indonesian medical tourists also go to Australia, Germany and the United States.

"Foreign specialists who are allowed to come here under a transfer of knowledge programme must be top-notch medical doctors who have had good track records… and have good human relations," Prof Frans told ST.

On Monday, Mr Widodo also said that Indonesia is stepping up efforts to attract investors in the pharmaceutical industry to set up plants, as it is trying to reduce imports of drugs, raw material to make drugs, as well as medical equipment.

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