|Surgery milestone opens door for medical tourism||| Print ||
|Thursday, 02 February 2012 11:30|
Macdonald Stubbs took several steps down the hallway of the Cheshire Hall Medical Center on Jan. 26 — a small achievement for the South Caicos native, but a big step towards sustainable medical tourism for the country.
Dr. James Bresch and colleagues performed six surgeries at the Cockburn Town Medical Centre on Grand Turk and another three total knee replacements at the Cheshire Hall Medical Center on Providenciales last week.
While each surgery lasted only about an hour, they mark a major milestone having made orthopedic surgery available to local patients for the first time ever in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Stubbs was one of nine local residents who received total knee replacements during a five-day visit by surgeons and staff visiting from Chicago. While it was a long awaited relief for the patients, some of whom had waited a decade for the procedure, it was a happy sign for the islands’ economies.
InterHealth Canada, operator of the two hospital facilities, contracted the surgeon through Global MedChoices, a U.S.-based firm that offers global health care technology and health services. Bresch, who performed the nine surgeries, said they went tremendously well, and he was pleased with the experience.
The visit was part of a larger plan to bring patients from outside the country to utilize the state-of-the-art hospital facilities for orthopedic surgeries. This is particularly important for the Grand Turk facility, which is currently not used to its maximum potential. Renting the facilities to outside firms would create a potential new revenue stream for the cash strapped government.
“The project has been in planning for some considerable time and has involved not just InterHealth and surgeons, Global MedChoices, but also the (National Health Insurance Program) team and (government) representatives,” said Roger Cheesman, InterHealth Canada CEO. “Our thanks go to all who have contributed to this programme.”
“The ministry congratulates the management of InterHealth Canada and will continue to build on this with the aim of making the TCI a major medical treatment centre for overseas clients and to develop its revenue potential in health tourism,” said Judith Campbell, permanent secretary of Health and Human Services.
GlobalMed Choices CEO Collin Childress told the fp with its close proximity to the U.S., the TCI makes a great location for such medical tourism. With the growing cost of health care in the United States, GlobalMed Choices specializes in providing patients and insurance companies a global network with improved standard of care at a significantly reduced costs compared to U.S. costs.
According to medicaltourism.com, a total knee replacement surgery in the United States can cost up to $50,000. While the representatives did not reveal how much the procedure cost in the TCI, experts say such procedures outside the U.S. can save patients anywhere from 30-70 percent. That equates to potential savings of up to $35,000 for the patient, while driving new sources of revenue into the local economy.
“We anticipate bringing down our own patients (to the TCI) … helping to generate revenue for the government,” Childress explained. The medical tourism industry worldwide is estimated to generate $15 billion in revenue, not including travel and accommodation costs.
The GlobalMed Choices team visited the TCI several times over the past months in order to determine if the procedures could be done effectively here. The TCI is the first Caribbean country where GlobalMed is looking to add to their network, and based on the positive experience, it appears this will be a fruitful relationship.
With nine successful surgeries under their belt, Bresch said, “We proved and validated it can be done.”
Bresch said the brand new, state of the art hospital facilities make the TCI a great spot for the network. “Also the infrastructure is a big draw,” explained Dr. Bresch. “We love it here.”
“The staff was amazing,” Bresch said of the nurses who assisted with the procedures. Resident nurses were required to learn additional skills in order to offer proper support to the visiting surgeon.
“The nurses studied hard, and we were impressed with their enthusiasm and motivation,” Bresch said.
Beyond the knee surgeries, Bresch expects total hip replacements and spinal surgery to be other potential options the company could offer to patients.
As for Stubbs and the other eight patients who received new knees, they are all recovering from their surgeries as well as being a part of groundbreaking advances in the country’s medical industry.
Medical tourism at a glance
In 2011 more than a half a million Americans traveled outside the U.S. for medical treatment, a number that is expected to grow at a 25- 35 percent annual rate.
A medical traveler is defined as anyone who travels across national borders for the purpose of receiving medical care, not including expatriates, tourists in need of emergency medical care, companions accompanying medical travelers, or multiple appointments that occur over the course of one trip.
It is estimated that the market size worldwide is close to $15 billion, not including patient travel or accommodations.
The top procedures for medical tourists from the U.S. include cosmetic surgery, dentistry, orthopedics, reproductive, weight loss surgery and health screenings.
Source: Patients Beyond Borders
Photo: Eighty-year-old Mac Stubbs was one of nine local residents who received a total knee replacement.
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