It seems New Zealand is doing what Brian Day, president of the Canadian Medical Association, would have this country do.
It's entering the world of medical tourism. Already home to several private hospitals, the country now has its first medical tourism company, Medtral, aimed at getting North Americans into the country for cheap and fast surgery. Company founder Edward Watson is now touring North America drumming up business.
The company is positioning itself in the market as more upscale than India or Thailand, which offer some of the cheapest overseas medical care, but cheaper than Singapore -- the designation of choice for those willing to pay for truly upscale care. The target market, Watson says, are patients who want cheap foreign surgery, but amid a more familiar culture. "It's not a foreign experience," he told the Washington Post. "Yeah, it's different, but you still have Starbucks, you have McDonald's."
According to pricing charts on the company web site, a hip replacement will cost $28,457.95 (CA), including airfare for two, surgery, five or six days in a hospital, accommodations at a luxury hotel afterward (where a nurse will visit you regularly) and physiotherapy. So far, 29 Americans and one Canadian have signed up, according to the Post. The company expects to treat its first patient in late August, 69-year-old Eugene Horn, an Episcopal priest in Oregon.
Horn told the Post he wanted cheaper surgery than he could get in the U.S., and likes the idea of going to a developed country with an established public health system. Another patient, 54-year-old Marc Shaw of California, is also considering Medtral for his knee-replacement surgery.
That is exactly the type of patient, Day has told me, that Canada could attract if it got into the medical tourism market. There are a lot of Americans who want cheaper surgery, and would feel more comfortable getting the procedure done in a country similar to their own.
But the first step, Day says, is to get rid of the waiting lists here for surgery -- the primary reason Canadians go abroad for treatment.
It seems, however, that Canada has nothing to learn from New Zealanders on that score. As the Washington Post points out:
"The kind of timely response that Horn and Shaw describe is something many New Zealanders themselves have trouble accessing. The country has one of the world's oldest and most comprehensive public health systems, and few New Zealanders have private health insurance. They rely on a sometimes swamped public health system to deal with their complaints, and there are waiting lists for many procedures, including hip replacements and radiotherapy."
To many that sounds like Canada.