As the Health Care Globalization Summit wraps up, I'd like to relate a coupe of e-mails I received from readers.
One worries that medical care is becoming commodified, and that the advancement of medical tourism will lead to two-tier medicine in Canada. Some people will be able to afford to spend thousands of dollars to get procedures done abroad, while those who can't afford it will have to wait.
Only a few years ago, arranging overseas care required dozens of long-distance calls, endless e-mails and hours of web surfing to put it together. Patients would have to fight their own way through the bureaucracy of arranging medical tests and getting needed travel documents. Today, brokers in Canada and the U.S. do all the legwork, and hospitals in India have call centres staffed 24-hours a day to help patients make their arrangements. Anyone with a cheque book can do it.
Vishal Bali, chief executive of Wockhardt Hospitals in India told me yesterday afternoon that he expects the number of Canadians coming to his hospitals to grow as Baby Boomers age. The main procedures Canadians seek in foreign hospitals are orthopedic and cardiac -- and both conditions become more prevalent with age, and have long waiting lists in Canada. Increased demand will lead to longer waiting lists, and more business for Bali's hospitals.
But while one reader said that means two-tier medicine, another e-mailed to suggest that it would be better to get Canada in on the medical tourism game and use the added revenue to get rid of Canadian wait lists.
The second reader also sent me a link to a Thai consulate web site advertise their country as a place for Canadians to get surgery done. The site includes a price list.
Coming up, today is the last day of the summit, and features Wal-Mart describing its move into medical care.