A mixture of medical and holiday tourism can be a dangerous combination, according to presenter at the Health Tourism forum in Sydney earlier this week. More than 100 guests and presenters were on hand to promote the benefits of medical and dental travel to Thailand.
The country hosts more than 1.2 million medical patients annually from around the world, including many Australians.
The most popular medical procedures include cardiac, brain/spinal, joints, cancer and gastro problems, and of course cosmetic procedures, according to the Chief Medical officer of Phyathai Hospital, Dr Surapong Ambhanwong.
Daniela Pratico, founder of medical travel specialists Medi Makeovers, stresses the perils of mixing sometimes uncomfortable and painful surgery and recovery time with holidays. “Activities on the holiday menu are off limits to people recovering from most surgical procedures. We as agents must ensure that after-care and re-cooperation is carried out in a very professional way. Our patients stay at five star hotels and have the most highly trained and skilled surgeons in the world,” she said. One of the most popular hospitals, Bumrungrad International in the heart of Bangkok has some 900 highly qualified doctors, and that is only one of the internationally accredited medical institutions in Thailand. One of the great bonuses in the country is that there is virtually no waiting time. “I could get you in tomorrow, if required,” Daniela comments. She also points out there is no Thai governing body for medical travel providers and agents. She would like one introduced as soon as possible.
Veteran journalist John Borthwick, who also spoke at the forum, agrees. Highlighting his first encounter with medical tourism, Borthwick said he met a group of Australian women at breakfast in a five star hotel in Bangkok who looked like they have been in a bus accident. ”They had various dressings on their noses, arms and other less obvious places and yet they all looked very happy,” he said.
The women — all recovering from operations — talked frankly about the procedures they’d had in the past week. These ranged from breast augmentations, lifts and reductions to rhinoplasty, arm lifts, liposuction tummy tucks and dental work. One of the group, 31-year old Linda from the NSW Central Coast, who researched her treatment options and costs before settling on Thailand for a breast implant, said the total outlay for her procedures — a three-night stay in an accredited Thai hospital and a week in a five star hotel, plus air fares from Australia — was just $7400, around 60 percent less than in Australia.
Daniela Pratico & John Borthwick
Prizes were on offer during the night and the breast augmentation prize went to journalist Sandip Hor. Organisers agree to offer HIM an alternate procedure. After all, Thailand is the land of smiles.
Written by John Savage