Surgery with a view

by Wendy Champagne ,  The Sydney Morning Herald | 2006-06-01

Medical tourism is booming as governments battle to provide services.

A vision of moonlight on the Taj Mahal is probably the last thing on the mind of anyone considering dental work, yet it is an association Jeff Hankins can make. For a little more than the price of one dental implant in Sydney, Hankins travelled to India and took a side trip to the Taj, with all transport and accommodation arranged through his dental surgeon in India, and returned with three "excellent" implants.

Medical tourism is growing exponentially. A report by the Confederation of Indian Industry estimates that this year close to half a million foreign patients will travel to India for treatments as complex and varied as bone marrow and kidney transplants, neurosurgery, joint replacement and dental implants. Many will also opt for a recuperative holiday to round out their stay.

You can visit South Africa for cosmetic surgery and a safari. Or go to Thailand for a cataract operation and spend a week on the beach at Phuket.

Others will travel to the Philippines, Singapore or Malaysia for a cardiac bypass, Hungary for dentistry, or the Middle East for complete medical care at a luxury destination. By 2010, Dubai will operate the largest international medical centre between Europe and South-East Asia. It is set to include a branch of the prestigious Harvard Medical School.

Hospital waiting lists, the high cost of private medical insurance and the scarcity of dentists are all driving the industry.