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Ghana targets health tourism boom

30 October 09 08:32 GMT

By Louise Greenwood
Africa Business Report, BBC World News

Most of us go on holiday to soak up the sun and relax. How about having a colonic irrigation or even a nose job thrown into the bargain? Ghana is one African country targeting the boom in so-called "health tourism".

"No Pain No Gain" is the stern message painted on the side of the ornamental pirogue at the Holy Trinity Health Spa on the banks of Ghana's River Volta. But for the clients here, a short cut to the body beautiful is the main reason for their visit.

As well as an array of massage, hydrotherapy and beauty treatments, Holy Trinity also offers a range of cosmetic and other surgery.

It says it is attracting hundreds of foreign visitors a year, with the offer of cut price treatment administered by doctors mostly trained in Western medical schools.

Unlike health tourists in the West, customers here are accessing services often not available in their own countries.

Cutting-edge treatment

Michael Nkwoji, a Nigerian businessman is one of those taking a break at the Holy Trinity. So far, he has received a full kidney and liver check, stress therapy and a total body detox.

"I honestly couldn't find a clinic like this in Lagos," he says. "I didn't know of one in Africa, so when I found this place, I was surprised."

The idea of recuperating at leisure in a peaceful location, with cutting-edge treatment delivered at a bargain price, is proving irresistible.

The clinic is attracting customers from all over West Africa and beyond.

However, for some, these clinics are an unwelcome arrival in Ghana, where most citizens struggle to get the most basic health care, diverting resources and staff that would be more usefully employed elsewhere.

"The ordinary people who should have access to hard-pressed facilities are not getting access because of tourists and have to compete with them," says health campaigner George Amoh.

But the managing director of Holy Trinity, Dr Felix Anyaa, says that if it is handled properly, all of Ghana can benefit from this new industry.

"With the influx of the foreign exchange that comes into the country, we will be able to build a health service and institutions and enhance conditions in the [overall] health service structure," he says, "and we shall be able to stop the brain drain."

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