Sun, surf and sutures

From Australian Doctor, 3 March 2009:
IT should have been a routine operation: a knee arthroplasty for an elderly man that would have cost about $15,000 and kept the patient off his feet for perhaps a few weeks. There would have been some small risks of complications, but in a high- standard health care environ ment such as Australia, it should have been simple.
But the patient — perhaps frustrated by the prospect of being put on a waiting list or unwilling to face the full cost of undergoing the procedure at a private facility — decided to travel to India for the operation. It was a decision both he, and his doctors, would come to regret.
Instead of enjoying a quick trip up the waiting lists, spending just $8600 on his procedure and getting a holiday in exotic India, the patient developed a post-oper ative infection with Mycobacterium fortuitum. Four operations, countless doses of antibiotics and $140,000 later, the sad story of this otherwise straightforward procedure came to a close.
Toowoomba orthopaedic surgeon Dr Anthony Wilson was one of those charged with the unenviable task of cleaning up the mess — a task made even more frustrating given the patient was originally his.
“People take it upon themselves to go overseas, but the problem is if they have com plications,” Dr Wilson says. “We’re stuck with it and we don’t know what they did, what antibiotics they used; we’re completely in the dark about how to treat this person.”
It’s not the first case of medical tourism gone wrong, and it certainly won’t be the last. As more countries, including Australia, realise the dollar potential of touting their medical services to overseas clients; as more individuals decide they can get their procedure done cheaper, faster or better in another country; and as international travel becomes ever easier and cheaper, medical tourism is on the rise. Read more.

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