Medical tourism: SA tops for extended stays

2017-06-15 09:45 - Kavitha Pillay
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Cape Town - How far would you go to get that nip-tuck you’ve dreamed of?

It may seem like an unreal reason to plan a holiday around a destination where one would get that nose job or tummy-tuck, but believe it or not, people who have the extra cash do in fact splurge on this luxury when the opportunity arises.

While the concept of travelling for cosmetic surgery has been around for some time, travel for other medical reasons has been growing in popularity over the years too.

Such medical tourism includes visits to a different country for surgery when highly-skilled medical professionals and state-of-the-art facilities are scarce in one’s own country, for emergency procedures when facilities may be unavailable, or to places that offer the perfect environment for a good dose of post-surgery rest and relaxation.

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Medical tourism excludes instances such as “suicide tourism” in Switzerland for people who make one last trip to exercise their right to die.

It also excludes illegal "medical tourism" when foreigners visit the country to poach endangered species for what they believe may cure illnesses through traditional medicinal practices. For instance, in 2016, it was believed that domestic trade in rhino horn could see a 'medical' tourism spike in SA.

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The Pan-African Health Tourism Congress, which took place recently in KwaZulu-Natal, aims to address development and promotion of medical destinations, providers and services in Africa.

In light of this Congress, South African Tourism says that SA is a top destination for medical procedures, recovery and recuperation, as it is at the forefront of cutting-edge medical procedures and has a history of excellent healthcare in Africa.

SA a contender in the health tourism industry

“For several years South Africa, especially Cape Town, has been a popular place for international visitors to undergo surgery, where after they spend their time recuperating and enjoying the beauty that the country has to offer,” says SA Tourism.

South Africa is considered one of the safest and most affordable places in the world to undergo surgery, and post-recuperation is a growing trend that forms part of having a surgical procedure abroad.

Cape Town the perfect place to receive your medical treatment and have a fabulous holiday

A post shared by Medical Tourism SA (@medicaltourismsa) on

“South African doctors enjoy a very good reputation in most parts of the world, and plastic surgeons are no exception,” says SA Tourism.

“An entire industry of cosmetic surgery tourism came about when companies started to offer packaged deals to tourists, involving cosmetic surgery combined with a holiday.”

There are a number of travel agencies that offer medical packages combined with accommodation bookings and sightseeing itineraries. In South Africa, Surgeon and Safari is an example of a company that will assist with planning medical, recuperative and tourism needs.

Surgeon and Safari's founder says “South Africa has become a hub for medical procedures – and not only within the cosmetic surgery space, though this has received justifiable attention. The country's expertise in cardiology, gynaecology, oncology and orthopaedics, however, has seen it rise to prominence across Africa in these fields as well.”

Great place to come and holiday and have medical treatment

A post shared by Medical Tourism SA (@medicaltourismsa) on

Going for a medical treatment?

According to SA Tourism, this is what you need to take note of:

1. Make sure you liaise with potential surgeons before making any bookings. It is important that your suitability for surgery be carefully assessed upfront.

2. Ensure that your surgeon is fully qualified and affiliated with all necessary associations and councils. These should include the Health Professions Council of South Africa, the Association of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons of Southern Africa, and the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.

3. As with any surgery, confirm whether your surgeon makes use of a specialised anaesthetist. While many surgeons make use of general practitioners for sedation, a specialist is a safer option – though there are cost implications.

4. The type of anaesthetic used will also affect the cost. Query this prior to booking your procedure.

5. Any medical insurance will be your responsibility alone, and payment is often required in full prior to surgery. Note that most cosmetic surgery rates are above those covered by medical insurance, and some form of co-payment is usually required.

6. Patients need to plan their trips sensibly, ensuring that they have a minimum of two to three days in the country prior to their surgery to conduct formal consultations and discuss the procedure in detail.

While post-operative stay requirements will vary with the different procedures, on average, 10-14 days is ideal for most surgeries; the exception being breast reductions, facelifts and full tummy tucks, which ideally require a three-week post-op stay.

But of course, there’s no harm in extending your stay to take in the sights and sounds of the country you’re visiting post-surgery!

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