The joys of becoming an accidental medical tourist


Do I react like a spoiled brat when forced to visit a doctor overseas? I recently returned from a trip to Asia that had me visit four different hospitals within three weeks. With more trepidation than an actress knocking on Harvey Weinstein’s hotel door, I expected to be met in Emergency by a wild eyed shaman, a witch doctor ready to behead a chicken, or a surgeon who looked like Boris Karloff. Instead I was treated to some of the best medical service and equipment I have ever seen! One hospital in Chiang Mai was like walking onto the set of 2001 space Odyssey. In fact I half expected HAL’s voice to greet me. As for the actual medication, no ‘eye of newt, toe of frog’ but drugs even I recognised. Though of course there is always a risk of a Chinese knock off, but I guessed odds were remote at the palaces of medicine I visited. What did catch me off guard was dosage. Nothing had any effect until I rang my own Dr. Frankenstein in London. “That is what you’d give a 12 year old,” which is probably the build of most males in the country. I am a beached whale by comparison. Triple the dose and all was dandy! Now I was lucky. I have insurance and was in Thailand where private hospitals put many in certain countries in Europe to shame. Even the food was so good I put on weight. I now understand why Thailand is not only the paedophiles and perverts destination of choice but now over 2m a year for those in search of medical treatment. You never know... the nurse might be a Ladyboy. I now have got my head around this relatively new phenomenon of medical tourism. With equipment this good and prices between 80% and 50% less than in the West, it starts to make sense. In fact you can save so much money that once treatment is finished you can recuperate in a five star hotel and still be in the money. Furthermore your insurance company is going to send you a thank you letter!

...and another thing

Of course certain countries specialise in certain areas.

I remember meeting a very wealthy Brazilian client at the TV festival in Cannes and introducing me to his stunning (fourth wife).

“Fernando”, I said a little to breathlessly, “She is gorgeous. Where did you meet?”

“Like me, she comes from Brazil”, he grinned “but her nose and tits come from Venezuela!”

As I understand, Brazil and (even now) Venezuela, Mexico and surprisingly world Number1 South Korea are great for facelifts, sex change and various implants.

Cardiology in India, Singapore and Lithuania. There is stem cell in Slovakia, oncology in Israel and very hip hip replacement in Iceland.

Panama, Poland, Philippines, Romania, Hungary and Malta are brilliant for dental. Hair transplant in Turkey. Rhinoplasty (nose job) is best in China and Japan. Think about that for a minute. The locals never have big noses, so who did they practice on?

You have to be choosy though. Clearly you are not going to get a discount for circumcision in a Moslem country though I assume Kim Jong Il could do you a cheap deal for a lobotomy for that pesky mad Aunt.

...and another thing

It’s strange to me though why National characteristics don’t reflect the kind of medical tourism on offer. You’d think Russia would be tops for alcohol rehab, Myrtle Beach South Carolina for weight loss, and Italy for fashion and/or sex addiction clinics. But no. Location and treatment are as unrelated as shyness and La Donald.

So varied and weird are the things on offer that I fully expect Michael Moore’s next expose will be this new colossus.

My son and I both had a discectomy by leading spine surgeons. Mine was done in Malta by a man who had run a spinal unit in Denver. I was in hospital three days. Under US$ 8,000. My son was not even in hospital for a day in a spine unit in Florida. A snip at $60,000! They say travel broadens the mind! It really does put things in perspective.

So if you feel a little peaky, your boobs ain’t perky, or your nose permanently puts your top lip in the shade, check your Airmiles, pack a bikini and check into hospital. Just don’t always expect to understand what language the doctor is talking to you!

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