Club Medical

Of course, going under the knife far away from home is a serious decision. The Canadian embassy in Bangkok says it has not received any complaints about Thai medical care, but experts agree it’s wise to approach medical tourism with caution.

“It boggles my mind that people would put their life on the line to save a few thousand dollars,” says Dr. Robert Stubbs, a plastic surgeon in Toronto. He questions whether patients can be sure foreign procedures are done using brand-name materials. He also doubts whether a plastic surgeon can recommend treatment on the basis of a photograph.

“Touch is critical, especially for eyes,” he says. “I need to pull back the lids, feel the skin’s elasticity. I think health tourism is a great concept, but you must ask who, where, why and what if.”

“Caveat emptor,” agrees Dr. Ruth Collins, a cardiologist in Edmonton and president of the Canadian Medical Association. She suggests asking if the doctor who will be operating on you is qualified to work in Canada or the U.S. Inquire if the hospital has accreditation up to Canadian standards. Finally, ask what happens if there are complications.

Carol Dodge, owner of a patio furniture company in Kelowna, B.C., was aware of the risks. But her business takes her on frequent trips to Thailand, and she decided to organize her last visit around some nip-and-tuck surgery.

A client recommended Dr. Amorn Poomee at Bumrungrad Hospital. He received his training in plastic surgery in Winnipeg and has a client list that includes members of the Saudi royal family. “I sent photographs, and we corresponded by e-mail,” says Dodge. The day she arrived at Bumrungrad, she had a consultation with Poomee. The next morning, she said goodbye to three rolls of stomach fat. Six days later, she had a facelift.

“I am an ex-medical lab technologist so I knew I was getting top-notch service,” she says. “They checked my blood pressure frequently and took my temperature every two hours. All I had to do was push a button, and someone was there.” Total cost was $12,000. “I didn’t bother getting quotes from Canada, “but I’m quite sure I saved a half to a third – and I paid with Visa.”

Copyright September 2007 CARP magazine, All Rights Reserved