27 August 2009

One-stop health and wellness center is Subic Bay’s newest attraction

Efforts to make Subic Bay a household name in medical tourism received a big boost recently, with the inauguration here of the George Dewey Medical and Wellness Center (GDMWC) on August 14.

No less than President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo inaugurated the one-stop medical and wellness facility, which is touted to be the first of its kind in Asia.

The US$30-million center is located inside Villa Amorosa, a self-contained health resort for retirees, medical practitioners and medical students in this free port.

The center, which includes a 100-bed tertiary hospital, is named after Commodore George Dewey of the US Navy, who liberated Subic Bay from the Spanish armada in July 1898. The whole facility is owned and operated by the George Dewey Medical College, Inc..

“The Center is our response — the Philippine response — to the challenge posed by our neighbors like Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia for leadership in medical tourism,” said Dr. Carmen Dinglasan, president of GDMWC.

She added that the center targets to serve patients from Northern and Central Luzon, who previously had to endure long travel hours to Metro Manila or abroad to seek professional medical and health services.

Among the services the new facility provides are: cardiac surgery, joint and hip replacement, reconstructive surgery, corneal transplant, refractive surgery and multi-focal intraocular lens implantation, stem cell rejuvenation, sleep disorder therapy, transplant surgery, laboratory analysis, pain management, fertility clinic, and dental implants.

In addition, the GDMWC is a health resort for retirees. It also caters to persons seeking medical treatment or check-up, or those who have concerns about their well-being.

Dinglasan said the cost of medical care like these are a lot cheaper in the Philippines than in the United States, for example.

“So when they’re in Subic, patients can also enjoy long sabbaticals as tourists with their families,” she said.

Noting that there are now more foreigners who have made Subic their second home after investing here in various businesses, Dinglasan added that the GDMWC also hopes to cater to the expatriate community.

The entire facility is located inside the forest at Subic’s Upper Cubi area — a location that is said to be perfect for rest, taking medication, and strengthening one’s mind and body.

“A healthy environment is one factor that helps improve health, and George Dewey has this advantage,” Dinglasan added.

Aside from the GDMWC, other facilities that are now open at Villa Amorosa are the George Dewey Medical College; a gymnasium, which has separate saunas for male and female; and a chapel.

However, in the next 45 days, the complex will also open to the public a 72-bed retirement facility; a clubhouse for conferences, club meetings and socials; a mini mart, restaurants, mini-sports complex, and a mini-theater that can accommodate 500 guests.

Next year, the construction of a 500-unit condominium for retirees will also start, GDMWC officials said.

When fully completed, the Center will have all the amenities one would expect in world-class destinations, including facilities for sports, shopping, entertainment, leisure and business.

Meanwhile, SBMA administrator Armand Arreza said that the project is in support to President Arroyo’s program on the promotion of greater health consciousness among Filipinos.

Arreza was among the personalities who accompanied the President in gracing the inauguration of the GDMWC. Others included SBMA chairman Feliciano Salonga, GDMWC chairperson Winnie Monsod, Representatives Mitos Magsaysay and Carissa Coscolluela, and Sec. Eduardo Pamintuan of the Subic-Clark Alliance for Development Council.

Arreza said that the new medical facility will benefit both local residents and foreign nationals temporarily living in various economic zones in Central and Northern Luzon, who can now easily access Subic via the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway.

The SBMA official also noted that foreigners appreciate the way Filipinos take care of their elders, which is rarely practiced in other developed countries like Japan, the United States and Europe.

Likewise, the Subic Bay Freeport Zone has an edge in medical tourism because of its clean environment and high level of security, Arreza added.

Among the people behind the GDMWC are: Dr. Fe Hildalgo, former education undersecretary and now president of the George Dewey Medical College (GDMC); Dr. Ruby Cereneo, former dean at the Lyceum of the Philippines, now GDMC vice president for academic affairs; Rony Diaz, former Manila Times publisher, and former labor undersecretary; Winnie Monsod, former NEDA chief, now GDMWC chairperson; Dr. Manuel Chua Chiaco, a well-known heart surgeon from the Philippine Heart Center, now GDMWC medical director; and Jose Araullo, former chairman of the law firm Araullo, Punongbayan and Associates.

The GDMWC now employs 200 medical staff and health-related workers. It would need another 300 for its shopping areas, sports complex, restaurants and condominiums when they open in 2010. (SBMA Corporate Communications)