In 2010, Belgian hospitals welcomed almost 46,400 patients from neighbouring countries, compared to some 39,300 in 2007. Dutch patients accounted for almost two thirds, their number totalling some 30,000.
The explanation is simple. The Dutch come to Belgium to avoid long waiting lists in their home country. Joris Vanvinckenroye of Royal Doctors, a company specialised in finding out the best treatment and the shortest waiting times, says they mostly come for heart surgery, hip or knee operations or interventions to counter obesity.
This so-called medical tourism is often well coordinated. More Dutch health insurers are making contracts with Belgian hospitals. The Belgian Health Service has reassured Belgian patients, claiming that the influx of mainly Dutch patients will not have a negative effect on waiting times for Belgians.