ZB

Kiwis consider medical tourism as elective surgery wait lists get longer

Author
RNZ,
Publish Date
Sat, 7 May 2022, 3:18pm
Thinking about tagging on a facelift or tummy tuck to that overseas holiday? (Photo / 123rf)
Thinking about tagging on a facelift or tummy tuck to that overseas holiday? (Photo / 123rf)

Kiwis consider medical tourism as elective surgery wait lists get longer

Author
RNZ,
Publish Date
Sat, 7 May 2022, 3:18pm

By RNZ

With waiting lists for elective surgery blowing out even further due to Covid-19 restrictions, the Government is taking action to try to shorten the wait, but what about heading overseas for surgery? Is it safe and is it cheaper? RNZ has spoken to people who are considering the options.

Ted in Dunedin is on the waiting list for gender reassignment from female to male, and has been waiting three months just to hear when the next appointment is.

He feared it could be years until he got the surgery he needed - if it happened at all - and was looking into the cost for it to be done overseas.

"There are a lot of people who already do it and I'm definitely looking into that. If I could get it done here obviously it's going to be easier, but you just have to start doing the costing and taking that out of my retirement savings."

In Tauranga Jackie Brown runs Bums, Tums and Gums, which offers escorted medical tours to Thailand for cosmetic and dental surgery.

She said over the years she had a few people ask about getting hip replacements in Thailand - but most were after cosmetic surgery.

The big attraction is the cost.

"Cosmetic surgery is about a third of the price and dentistry half of the price. I asked why the difference in the price, and they said with dentistry you normally have to buy things ... the rods or the posts, whereas cosmetic surgery you're not really adding anything unless silicon if it's an implant."

One of her former clients, who asked not to be named, said the service and safety standards in Thailand were excellent.

She underwent a facelift, breast enlargement and dental work.

She said it was the cheaper cost which attracted her, along with the immediacy of access and the bonus of a holiday on top.

New Zealand Orthopaedic Association president John McKie said he had heard of people in the past heading to the likes of India or Thailand for surgery, but had not heard of any cases recently.

People who did so were opening themselves up to certain risks, he said.

"If you are just doing mail-order/internet shopping orthopaedic surgery overseas you have no idea really who is treating you or the facility you are being treated in, whether it is risk of infection or other issues."

Arthritis New Zealand chief executive Philip Kearney said it was extremely frustrating for anyone waiting for surgery, and many would be considering all options to improve their health.

At the moment GPs could only send people to a specialist for surgery, but Kearney would like them to be able to consider other alternative treatments, as they are doing in the Bay of Plenty.

"They are looking at alternative ways using physiotherapy and support for getting somebody back to better movement, so in that sense we are potentially delaying surgery for quite a while."

Kearney said about 30 per cent of people with hip problems could get real success with options other than surgery.

With DHBs about to be dissolved, now may be a good time for some new thinking, Kearney said.

- RNZ