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Medical Tourism - Destination - Belgium

General Informations

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Belgium attracts 35,000 medical tourists annually who mostly come for cosmetic and plastic surgery as well as oncology and cardio treatment despite no governmental promotion as a medical tourism destination and the current lack of a national accreditation system (alongside no JCI accredited facilities). The reason why many choose to go to Belgium for their treatment are mainly the short waiting times, the low costs, the high quality and language ability. Virtually all medical staff speak Dutch, French and English. Foreign patients can expect to save 56% (when compared to the US) or 26% (when compared to the UK). However, the majority come from the Netherlands (60%) and surrounding European countries (19%) thanks to a central location within Europe. British patients account for 21% as many clinics in Belgium have agreements and co-operations with British based facilities. Belgium has the capacity to meet the needs of 50,000 more medical tourists each year.

Belgium
Localisation Western Europe, bordering France, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands
Capital Brussels
Biggest cities (population) Brussels (1,019,000), Antwerp (459,805) and Gent (231,493)
Inhabitants 10,665,867
Politics federal parliamentary representative democratic constitutional monarchy
Religion Catholic (76.3%), Islam (3.5%), other (20.2%)
Currency Euro (EUR)
GDP € 230,995 million, 0.8% of the world’s GDP
Official language(s) Dutch (Flemish), French and German
Climate moderate sea climate, temperatures range between 4°C in winter and 22°C in summer
Time zone GMT+1, summertime GMT+2
Happy Planet Index (HPI) 64

Cultural Aspects

General Culture

Belgium has influences from French and Flemish culture, which includes two different languages. English is also well spoken. The Belgian culture is influenced by both France and the Netherlands concerning cuisine, fashion and general habits. Belgium is particularly famous for its beer and pralines chocolates.

Safety

With regard to safety Belgium ranks 15 on the GPI, which means it is a safe country.

Tourists Attractions and Sights

  • The Atomium: an iconic structure and exhibition space in Brussels
  • The Manneken Pis: the most famous statue in Brussels
  • The Grand Palace: the central market square of Brussels
  • Ghent: the capital and biggest city of the East Flanders province
  • Bruges: the capital and biggest city of the West Flanders province

Visa Requirements

Belgium is part of the Schengen agreement and the EU. As such, US citizens may enter Belgium for up to 90 days for tourist or business purposes without a visa. The passport should be valid for at least three months beyond the period of stay. Sufficient funds and a return airline ticket are required.

Infrastructure

Transportation

The road infrastructure is excellent with highways running through all parts of the country, which also link Belgium to its neighbouring countries. A train network exists for both domestic and international traffic. There are many international trains departing from Brussels: the Eurostar runs to London, the TGV to Paris, the Thalys to Paris and Amsterdam, Cologne and Paris, and the ICE International runs via Aachen to Cologne. Furthermore, Belgium has got three international airports: Brussels International Airport, Brussels-Charleroi Airport, and Antwerp International Airport. Belgium has trains and buses running throughout the whole country. One can travel by tram in the cities of Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent and Charleroi. The metro is only available in Brussels.

Accommodation

Major hotel chains that are represented are: Hilton Worldwide, Dorint, Golden Tulip, InterContinental Hotels Group, Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide and Accor Hotels. Accommodation in Belgium ranges from youth hostels to 5* deluxe hotels. There are no hospitals working together with hotels available in Belgium.

Health Care System

WHO ranking 21
Physicians per 10,000 population 42.0 (2006)
Nurses per 10,000 population 142.0 (2004)
GDP spent on health care 9% (2007)
Education period of doctors 7 years
Education period of specialists additional up to 5 years

Health Care Providers

In Belgium there are two main types of health care providers, hospitals and clinics. A hospital has its own staff on duty 24 hours a day and one will not be visited by one’s own doctor whereas a clinic is a private hospital with its own staff where one’s doctor will normally visit. Moreover, 60% of 215 medical facilities are private and the rest are public.

Insurance

Insurance in Belgium is compulsory for all employees and self-employed people. Health insurance contributions are made by employers directly to chosen funds but most Belgians take out supplementary health insurance to cover not reimbursed expenses. The percentage of the population with additional private insurance is unknown.

General Medical Tourism Information

Belgium is at the forefront of medical tourism in Europe and encourages around 35,000 international patients annually for medical reasons against 6.7 million for purely tourist reasons. 40 The precise revenue from medical tourism is not known.

Belgium promotes their international medical facilities by having medical centres based in the UK that send their patients to Belgium to be treated faster and cheaper. 41 Belgium and the UK also created the ‘London Patient Choice Project’ to avoid waiting times in the UK. 42 In addition, hospitals in Belgium and the Netherlands have been working together since the 1990’s.

Flows

The main flows coming to Belgium are Dutch (60%), English (21%), French (17%) and other countries, such as Sweden, Italy, Greece and the US (2%).

Reasons

  • No waiting times: Belgium has sufficient capacity in their hospitals to welcome another 50,000 patients per year, which can reduce waiting times.
  • Cost savings: on average one should expect a saving of 56% (compared to the US) or 26% (compared to the UK) on medical treatments.
  • Quality: there is high quality of treatment within the Belgian health care system and it has the lowest post-operative infection rates in Europe. Hospitals also have the latest equipment.
  • Language skills: virtually all medical staff speak English, Dutch and French.

Specialisation

The main areas of medical specialisation in Belgium include:

  • Oncology
  • Cardiology (cardiac bypass)
  • Cosmetic and plastic surgery (breast augmentation)

Top Facilities

The top facilities have been selected using the following criteria’s, listed in order of importance: JCI Accreditation, ISQua accreditation, international orientation. In general national accreditation systems have not been taken into consideration, due to the fact that there are too many and judging them is out of scope of this study. Since Belgian hospitals follow the same uniform standards, there is no specific accreditation system and no JCI accredited hospitals. Some of the recognised international clinics are:

  • Clinic BeauCare, Brussels
  • Singelberg Clinic, Beveren-Waas
  • AMC Gent, Gent

SWOT

Strengths Weaknesses
  • Multilingual country (Dutch, French, German and English are widely spoken)
  • No waiting times for medical treatments
  • Cost savings 56% (compared to the US) or 26% (compared to the UK)
  • High Western quality of health care
  • Safe country as it is ranked 15 on Global Peace Index (GPI)
  • Well-developed infrastructure
  • Majority of hospitals are private
  • A Schengen country and part of the EU
  • No national accreditation system for medical facilities
  • No JCI accredited medical facilities
  • Few international clinics
  • No government

Conclusion

Despite no governmental promotion as a medical tourism destination and the current lack of a national accreditation system (alongside no JCI accredited facilities), Belgium attracts 35,000 medical tourists annually who mostly come for cosmetic and plastic surgery. Foreign patients can expect to save 56% (compared to the US) or 26% (compared to the UK). However, the majority comes from the Netherlands (60%) and surrounding European countries (19%) thanks to a central location within Europe. British patients account for 21% as many clinics in Belgium have agreements and co-operations with British based facilities. Belgium has the capacity to meet the needs of 50,000 more medical tourists each year.

Top Facility Chart

Belgium Clinic BeauCare Singelberg Clinic AMC Gent
Location and website Machelen (Brussels)
www.kliniekbeaucare.co.uk
Beveren-Waas
www.singelbergclinic.co.uk
Gent
www.amcgent.com
Accreditations or certifications No accreditation No accreditation No accreditation
Capacity of hospital beds No beds No beds 33 beds
Possible for accompanying person to stay in room No, as there are no beds No, as there are no beds Yes
Medical tourists 90% of all medical tourists, coming from 70% UK, 20% Netherlands and 10% France British and Dutch patients 80% of all, coming from US, Sweden, Italy, Greece and UK
Number of medical staff doctors/nurses 4 physicians and 4 nurses 1 specialist 4 physicians and 2 nurses
Type of rooms available (prices) No rooms No rooms Single room (€ 130), Double room (€ 150), Deco room (€ 170), Suite (€ 200)
International patient department Not officially, but the staff can recommend a hotel No No separate department but staff is internationally oriented
Adaptations to cultures and nations Language assistance Language assistance Yes, in food
Languages spoken by staff Dutch, French and English Dutch, French and English Dutch, French, German and English
Marketing of the facility/USP Website. USP is efficiency and treatment is done in 1 day Website only. USP is efficiency and treatment is done in 1 day Accommodation. Facility that also publishes papers on new research
Specialisations Aesthetic surgery Aesthetic surgery Cardiology, orthopaedics, radiology and aesthetic surgery

Price Chart (in €uro)

Treatment Average Price Clinic BeauCare Singelberg Clinic AMC Gent
Cardiac bypass 12,141 N/A N/A 17,000
Gastric bypass 8,514 N/A N/A 8,900
Knee replacement 9,400 N/A N/A 9,000
Hip replacement 8,099 N/A N/A 8,500
Hip resurfacing 8,769 N/A N/A 8,750
Botox treatment 365 387 N/A 5,000
Breast augmentation 1,627 2,879 4,042 N/A
Facelift 1,523 498 3,211 N/A
Liposuction 561 969 3,267 N/A
Dental implants 454 N/A N/A 7,000
Rhinoplasty 1,764 2,492 3,267 4,750
Lasik eye surgery 1,195 N/A N/A N/A

Note: All prices are estimates, and may vary widely from source to source depending on services included in the estimate (i.e. doctor’s fees, hospitalisation, administration costs or the patient’s age and medical history). Due to non-disclosure strategies of the various locations, it was not possible to make a clear separation between those factors. All prices given for the specific facilities have been provided by the hospitals/clinics themselves via email or telephone contact. The prices are given in Euros (€).

N/A means either that treatment are not available in the specific hospital, that a price estimation cannot be found or that the medical facility did not disclose the information. For the average prices, printed literature has been used before researching sources on the internet.