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Medical care joins tourism as Okinawa drawing cards

Date Posted: 2007-05-24

Tourism is on the rise in Okinawa, with thousands more fleeing bustling urban locations for the tranquility of a resort island vacation.

A new dimension has entered the tourism marketing realm, with hospitals and clinics touting both quality services and prices, but also the relaxation environment here. Calling Okinawa the ideal place for comfort, safety and healing, the tourism specialists are making active bids for mainland Japanese and citizens of other Asian countries to make Okinawa their healing island. Oura Clinic, a kidney dialysis clinic, says the number of patients has more than doubled in the last eight years, from fewer than 400 to more than 869. While most are from the mainland, Taiwan residents are making the short flight to Okinawa for treatment, too. Doctor Takashi Oura says only 14 patients were non-Okinawans ten years ago, but last year 94 were from outside the prefecture.

Potential patients are finding it easy to learn about Okinawa medical care. Internet websites provide information, and even allow reservations to be made for treatment. “To make this a tourism island, we must accommodate group reservations,” says Dr. Oura, “and then we need a system to give medical treatment.” The NPO Foundation Balia Free Network Council in Okinawa City has worked a network with 22 hospital to attract tourist-patients.

The hospitals will provide not only treatment, but will send cars and nurses to get the patients.

Apprehensive at first, hospitals say they’re encouraged by patients who talk about how much more relaxed they are in Okinawa, and how much better they feel than before coming to the island.

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