Cyprus has always been a popular retirement and tourist destination, but at the same time it enjoys a strategic geographical location for businesses to enjoy the benefit of being at the crossroad of three continents. Medical tourism is a fast-evolving industry that combines medical and wellness treatment with a vacation. Cyprus offers all the prerequisites to further develop into a well-recognized international Health and Wellness Tourism destination. The country already fulfills a number of important criteria, such as a strategic location, a mild Mediterranean climate, an existing network of high-standard hospitals and clinics, luxury hotels and existing tourism infrastructure, facility with languages, as well as the expertise of internationally educated doctors.
Expenditure on health care as a percentage of GDP was almost 8% in 2012. In a 2010 report prepared on behalf of the Cyprus Tourism Organization, the number of health travelers that visited Cyprus numbered approximately at 60,000. There are six state general hospitals and approximately 80 private hospitals and clinics on the island. In October 2013, the EU Directive on Cross Border Healthcare was implemented in all EU countries, extending the freedom of choice in healthcare to Europeans looking for alternative healthcare solutions and treatment abroad.
Over the past few years Israel has emerged as an important destination for medical tourists. In 2006 15,000 people came to Israel for medical treatment, bringing in $40 million in revenue. In 2010, Israel treated 30,000 medical tourists. The Health Ministry estimates that they inject about NIS 200 million a year into the health system, of which more than NIS 100 million goes to government hospitals. Outside experts put the total much higher, at almost NIS 500 million. In fact according to a report in 2013, the number of people from Eastern Europe and the United States seeking treatment at Israel's public and private hospitals is growing. It was estimated in 2012 that the income from medical tourism was at about $140 million.
Combining the Israeli success story in the health sector together with the medical tourism industry of Cyprus, and the EU Directive on Cross Border Healthcare, the reader will appreciate the unique opportunities that the Israeli healthcare sector can gain by investing in the Cyprus medical industry.
The legislation on establishing and operating a medical center on the island is basic and straightforward. The medical center must secure two separate licenses. The first is the license for the establishment of the medical center and the second is the operational license.
For the establishment license, the applicant must submit a number of documents such as the architectural plans, a report on the departments or specialties that will be provided, a survey of the electromechanical installations, and an organizational chart. The establishment license is issued initially for a period of one year, and may subsequently be renewed for a further one year.
For the operational license, the application must be accompanied by a further set of documents that are related to the operational side of the medical center, such as a fire safety certificate, a survey of the medical equipment that will be used, a list of medical, paramedical and supporting staff together with their credentials, and a valid license from the Ministry of Labor and Social Insurance. The operational license is issued for a period of two years with subsequent renewals for two year periods.
Over and above the general provisions each medical center will need to meet a further set of conditions depending on the type of treatment it will offer.
It is worth noting that many other European countries have cumbersome healthcare systems compared with Cyprus’ s healthcare system, an important factor that can help attract many European patients, both for treatment and recovery.
Yaniv Habari is the founder of Y. Habari & Co. LLC, a boutique corporate and commercial law firm based in Cyprus.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - - on February 24, 2015
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