Published on : Saturday, April 19, 2014
Medical tourism is what the Canadian health care industry pinning its hope as a ‘magic pill’ solution to cure Canada’s health care woes. At least Toronto’s Sunnybrook hospital strongly believes it so, as it has defended its position to court wealthy medical patients from other countries who can afford to pay generously for out-of-pocket care in a Canadian hospital.
Already, a handful of other hospitals have engaged themselves in this practice, and many across the country are starting to sit up and take notice. We are made to believe it is going to be a revenue-generating solution for a cash-strapped system. So is it the time to celebrate?
Well, Medical tourism looks at first like a source of income but it is more like a many-headed Hydra.
Proposals by public hospitals to sell care to medical tourists to expand their revenue base are understandable given tough economic times. However, that is not the case always as experience from other countries suggests that promises of revenue flow-back to the public system do not always eventuate.
If the promises of flow-back of revenue earned are to be traded off against the fact that beds for medical tourists are clearly beds that could be used — right now — by Canadians. If these beds are going spare when people are currently lined up in crowded emergency rooms from coast to coast, then something is clearly amiss.
Further lucrative private hospitals treating medical tourists will temp divert surgeons and physicians from seeing public patients.
Finally if government, hospitals and physicians can promise excellent and timely care to tourists from other countries, then there is no reason why the same can’t be made available to all Canadians.