Cheap and convenient eye operations overseas – or medical tourism – raises serious questions around safety standards, patientcare, legal recourse and insurance, according to the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO).
RANZCO has issued a warning against people who choose this option, saying that some countries promote ‘package’ experiences to lure consumers, such as resort holidays combined with ‘discounted’ medical or cosmetic procedures – sometimes done pool-side.
Studies have shown there were more than 10 million medical tourists in 2014 creating an industry worth over $50 billion.
Yearly, it is estimated about 25,000 Australians leave the country for cosmetic services.
Laser and cataract surgery are two of the most commonly-performed eye operations now being marketed to consumers across the globe as ‘affordable’ health services compared to that available in their own country.
RANZCO President Dr Bradley Horsburgh, clarifies said basing a medical decision on cost alone neglected the complexity of diagnosis, treatment, and post-operative care for many eye conditions and diseases.
“Firstly, combining a medical operation with a holiday is potentially dangerous as there may not be the continuity of care needed. You can’t undergo an operation and then decide a day’s rest is appropriate before you start exercising or travelling again.”
“Each person’s eye is different, and a specific plan put in place by an ophthalmologist is needed to ensure eye disease is treated and monitored properly at each stage. A person heading overseas may not be fully aware of what treatment is involved, nor be aware of the training of the surgeons or if infection control levels are appropriate. Websites with gushing testimonials about the quality of service provided cannot be verified”, said Dr. Horsburgh.
Scarring and contracting antibiotic-resistant infections are just some of the dangers from having surgery performed overseas. If there is clinical negligence, legal recourse may be difficult when dealing with medical professionals and facilities in another country. Additionally, those without private health insurance may be exposed to very expensive bills if an adverse situation occurs.