Surgery - Fast Growing Market
Fast-growing market in abroad plastic surgery.
Company spokesman Patrick Marsek said MedRetreat organized care for 200 people in 2005, about 350 in 2006 and expects to have helped 650 patients this year get treatment in places such as Malaysia and Thailand. Fresno-based HealthMed Tourism is hoping for similar success.
Owners Emily Higby and Fely Guzman have backgrounds organizing specialty getaway packages — wine-tasting excursions to South Africa, for example.
Higby became interested in medical tourism because she suffers from polycystic kidney disease, a genetic disorder characterized by the growth of cysts that can reduce kidney function and lead to renal failure. A kidney transplant could be in her future. "I could probably get it anywhere in Asia for 75 percent less," she said. Guzman owns a medical staffing company in the Philippines that hires out nurses and physical therapists to Asian health facilities.
The women have toured hospitals in Asia and plan another trip this summer. They said they will send people only to places they have visited personally and where they feel comfortable.
Dodd ran into some difficulty after his operation. He had serious complications after he returned home to Hanford. His stitches opened up, and his local doctor suggested he go back to Mexico to see his surgeon. He had several additional surgeries there and a "gastric sleeving" to replace the lap-band. He ended up staying in Mexico for about three months. Today, he talks about his Mexican surgery experience matter-of-factly, boasting of his less-than-200-pound weight on his 5-foot, 9-inch frame. "My quality of life has gone up 100 percent. I'm thinking about cruises," he said, something he never would have considered before. Dodd said the hospital didn't charge for treating his complications and the additional hospital stay. "Jimmy, you were our guest," he said doctors told him. He has since retired from his job as a standards inspector at the Kings County Agricultural Commissioner's Office and has canceled his health insurance, which cost him $500 a month. He said he'll pay cash for routine care and go abroad for surgery.
Most pay their own way
Dr. Carlos Alessandrini, director and owner of Bajanor Hospital, who came to know Dodd well during his time there, said about 98 percent of the hospital's weight-reduction-surgery patients are from the United States, and the rest mostly from Canada. He said most of his American patients don't have insurance and pay out of pocket. The American Hospital Association in Washington doesn't have an official policy on the issue of medical treatment abroad. But spokeswoman Elizabeth Lietz said there are serious considerations people ought to think over before going to foreign hospitals. "You might not have services and care like you have here," she said. "The U.S. is recognized globally for its medical treatment, and we are leading the way in advancing treatment of diseases and improving people's health."
Increasing demand for healthcare abroad prompted the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations in 1998 to start an international accreditation branch. A large part of the demand — at least initially — came from U.S. companies with American citizens working overseas that wanted to make sure they were offering good care to their employees.
JCAHO International's accreditation has patient care and safety and goals similar to U.S. hospitals.
If more Mexican hospitals sought and received JCAHO accreditation — the Bajanor Hospital has not — author Woodman said it might boost credibility, making it even more convenient for Americans in border states to take advantage of lower health-care costs in Mexico.
Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, http://www.shns.com