Is it ethical to visit India, a country of more than 1.1 billion people, with some of the greatest discrepancies between wealth and poverty on the face of the earth for medical tourism? Is it fair to divert the resources of that nation for American/ outside use (medical tourism)? Especially since the revenues from that medical tourism are not going to support facilities and services that benefit the native population. That’s the question the Indian government and the World Health Organization are asking regarding the medical tourism industry..
While Colombia certainly has its share of poverty and hardship – (with over three million displaced people) the sheer size of India’s millions of disenfranchised makes the problem much more acute. Rural populations are suffering the most from the medical tourism phenomenon.
Also, President Santos (and his predecessor, Uribe) have approached medical tourism in a more thought-out way – to try to maximize the benefit to their nation, not just individuals and private hospitals with a multi-part plan addressing medical tourism and it’s role in the economic growth and health of the country.
In comparison to India, (and to a similar extent, Thailand), medical tourists traveling to Colombia are not being diverted to exclusive single purpose facilities that were built for that purpose. They are going to the same hospitals are many other Colombian residents - meaning when American patients go to Cardioinfantil, Santa Fe de Bogotá or any of the other myriad of facilities here – the money generated from medical tourism is going to hospitals that treat Colombians, and support public health programs for Colombians..
In Thailand, medical tourism has hurt the country by luring away medical professionals (doctors and nurses) from community hospitals to lush, private facilities catering only to foreigners. Again, given the way that medical facilities and services are supplied here in Bogotá – that is less likely to happen.
We’ll continue this discussion later – right now I have another interview..
Update: 28 April 2011 Medical Tourism in Thailand is Bad for Thailand
New article published in the Guardian by Andrew Chambers about Thailand and Medical Tourism reiterating all the claims we presented here, such as the idea that medical tourism to Thailand adversely affects poorer Thai residents, and that Medical Tourism in Thailand may actually force Thailand to import doctors to treat their own populace.
Issues regarding the use of private [expensive] clinics catering to foreigners is also mentioned in the article:
“There are also concerns over the growing divergence between state and private health provision. Some of the big private hospitals now resemble five-star hotels. Doormen will guide you to a gleaming marble foyer before elevator attendants take you to your waiting room. These “hotel-spitals”, designed specifically for the needs of foreign patients, mean that the Thai middle classes are increasingly unable to afford private healthcare provision at these centres.”