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Messi’s Visit to Egypt: Is There Hope for Reviving Medical Tourism?

27 February, 2017
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Standing in the spotlight, Argentinian football player Lionel Messi stood in front of the Giza Pyramids in a photo posted to his Facebook page with the caption: “Medication against Hepatitis C saves lives; let’s put an end to the waiting lists. #StopTheWait”. The photo was taken during the superstar’s one-day visit to Egypt to raise awareness, promote affordable treatment for Hepatitis C and encourage tourism.

An estimated 700,000 people around the world die each year due to complications from Hepatitis C-related liver diseases, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). However, as one of the countries with the highest rates of the infliction, Egypt wants to fix that.

Messi’s Tuesday visit came as part of Tour n’ Cure, Egypt’s latest initiative in medical tourism. According to the Tour n’ Cure website, the initiative “offers the opportunity to treat Hepatitis C patients from all over the world, with an effective and advanced complete treatment program with no waiting time and at a fraction of the cost.” Patients will be able to take in the country’s beauty and visit the country’s historic landmarks at only 10% of international prices.

Egypt’s current statistics show support for the initiative, as the recovery rate from Hepatitis C in Egypt stands at about 96%, making the country a world leader in the global cure rate, according to the Tour n’ Cure official website.

The program also offers treatment plans for eczema and rheumatism. 

“Egypt has a lot of medical and wellness resources, but has yet to use these resources in the best way,” said Mohamed Elsherbeiny, a tourism specialist at the Egyptian Tourism Authority, who hopes that the government tends to the high standards for hospitals chosen for this project.

Another official at the Egyptian Tourism Authority, who preferred to remain anonymous for security reasons, specified that there is an ongoing problem in this field that exists between ministries and different authorities in Egypt: a lack of cohesion and coordination.

“Each body either does not want to bear responsibility, or wants to have it all and acquire total control. There is no teamwork between ministries,” he stated. All projects require being under the auspices of the head of cabinet or the president in order to take proper, serious steps, he explained.

Such medical tourism initiatives, the official said, ought to be coordinated by the Ministry of Health, which should provide doctors and scientists; the Ministry of Tourism, for marketing and tour guides; and the private sector for modern infrastructure needed for medical centers and buildings.

Both Egyptian Tourism Authority officials praised the success of medical resorts in Safaga, an area located on the Red Sea with pure air, clean water, and medicinal black sand.

“Safaga can be a great and leading pilot towards the best use of Egypt’s medical resources,” Elsherbeiny said.

Tags medical tourism Lionel Messi Hepatitis C