A brand new sort of tourism is sweeping into Panama, however these guests will not be simply coming for solar and enjoyable. Providing first-rate well being care at cut-rate costs, Panama is attracting the newest sort of traveler: the medical vacationer.
Medical tourism is a quickly rising, multi-billion greenback worldwide trade. Nations like India and Thailand have lengthy been attracting sufferers from developed international locations seeking to escape the excessive costs and lengthy waits at residence, offering high-quality well being care at a fraction of the worth.
Panama is among the newest international locations to emerge on the well being tourism scene, providing US-trained docs, state-of-the-art infrastructure and gear, plus a definite benefit — proximity to North America. With as many as 45 million Individuals uninsured, and Canadians ready as much as two years for vital procedures, many are wanting south for options.
“The demand may be very robust, and we have not even begun to scratch the floor,” says Rudy Rupak, president of Planet Hospital, a medical tourism company researching certified docs and hospitals in international locations world wide to carry out procedures for shoppers who can’t afford, or wait, of their residence international locations.
His firm not too long ago added Panama to its record of locations, due to the newly-opened Punta Pacifica hospital, an affiliate of the celebrated US hospital, John Hopkins Medication Worldwide.
“We search for docs who’re educated within the USA, or different glorious establishments overseas similar to in Canada, the UK or Europe,” explains Mr Rupak, “in addition to peer evaluate, publications over time of their space of specialization, and affected person interviews.”
“I see Panama as a strategic place, with a very good location, only a 5 or 6 hour flight from the US. However the primary elements are high quality of docs and the presence of a US hospital,” he says.
Add to that a lovely setting for restoration, personalised care, quick wait instances and worth tags 40% to 70% lower than these within the US — and the attract is obvious.
Dr Richard Ford, medical coordinator of Pana-Well being, a gaggle of docs specializing in medical tourism to Panama, estimates vacationers spent in roughly $5 million final 12 months on procedures similar to beauty surgical procedure, in-vitro fertilization, orthopedic prostheses, dentistry and laser eye surgical procedure.
Regardless of the rising commerce, the Panamanian authorities is just not but monitoring well being tourism numbers, however Dr Ford says they’re on the rise, pegging 2006 figures at multiple thousand, a pointy enhance over earlier years.
“[That] is about 35 per cent greater than the earlier 12 months and 80 per cent greater than the 12 months earlier than,” he estimates.
Whereas these numbers may appear small, Rudy Rupak believes they’re about to blow up, with many well being officers and coverage makers within the US calling for Medicare to pay for procedures overseas, to alleviate a soon-to-be overburdened well being care system.
Debra Lipson, a senior well being researcher talking at an AARP (American Affiliation of Retired Individuals) discussion board, stated outsourcing medical care may quantity to massive financial savings within the US.
In keeping with one examine, she stated, “the US may save $1.4 billion yearly if just one in ten US sufferers receives therapy for 15 low-risk medical procedures overseas.”
A lot of those that migrated from Latin America are returning to their residence international locations to retire, she identified, additionally making the most of ‘extra inexpensive aged care help and companies’.
“My husband’s mother and father not too long ago moved again to Panama, after spending 15 years within the US,” she recounted. “They’re nonetheless among the many “young-old” — not but out of their sixties. However my mother-in-law has a neurological situation that requires fixed vigilance and I sleep higher at night time understanding that she has dependable, inexpensive care.”