First-rate facilities offer opportunities

Medical Tourism in the Turks and Caicos includes knee arthroscopy. TCI has highly skilled physicians and health care workers in residence, and international experts visit regularly to offer specialty services.

 

InterHealth Canada (TCI) Ltd. operates the national hospital in a public-private partnership with the TCI Government. With 20 beds at Cheshire Hall Medical Centre on Providenciales and 10 beds at Cockburn Town Medical Centre on Grand Turk, the partners identified an opportunity to generate additional revenue to offset the cost of local healthcare. Working with North American medical providers such as US-based Global MedChoice, the Turks and Caicos Islands Hospital is making the best use of its available capacity.

While traditional medical travel flowed from less developed countries to those with more advanced systems, imbalances in cost, insurance coverage and access to timely, quality care are reversing that flow. More than 500,000 Americans were estimated to have traveled abroad for medical purposes in 2011, contributing to an industry that’s estimated to be worth $15 billion a year worldwide. With the locations of the Turks and Caicos Islands, amenities and easily accessible airlift capacity, the country was a prime candidate to join the global medical tourism movement – once its 21st century medical facilities were completed.

“The nature of the islands and the environment is one where people would like to vacation,” said Jill Magri, CEO of InterHealth Canada (TCI) Ltd. “And what better way to recover from your surgery than in a private, relaxing environment?”

Foreign travelers who book medical trips to Provo and Grand Turk get competitive prices and access to top-quality surgeons in modern facilities with attractive options for rehab and recovery. The country gets revenues that can be cycled back through the National Healthcare System, reducing the financial burden on residents. And visiting specialists typically provide pro bono care for locals between their foreign bookings. The physicians themselves – who must be locally licensed, permitted and credentialed by the TCI Hospital – may receive tax advantages from the arrangement. Many also bring their families, turning a working trip into a relaxing getaway.

Complicated orthopedic surgeries – such as knee and hip replacements – have predominated the TCI medical tourism market thus far, but the types of specialized services are expanding. While some of these procedures are not covered by certain insurance plans in the United States, cost isn’t the only factor that draws people to seek offshore care. Waiting lists for qualified doctors in the United States can be long compared to scheduling the same procedure here.

The facility itself has received the Accreditation Canada Diamond Standard. “Not only (is that) good for patients, but it’s also a signal for physicians and other medical providers that the quality of care and quality of support care their patients will receive is of high quality, “ Magri said. “So if they were to do a surgery, it’s all of the other things that go into the care of that patient the 24 hours of the day when they are outside of the operating theater.”

InterHealth and Global MedChoices tested their procedures in 2012 and have been expanding ever since. Collin Childress, Global MedChoices’ CEO, called the early returns a success, and said their business operations are unfolding as they’d hoped.

Dr. James Bresch, a Global MedChoices orthopedic surgeon, said he’s been extremely pleased with patient satisfaction and outcomes. The company anticipates it will handle 200 procedures in the Turks and Caicos in 2014. Because of travel costs, access to hotels and resorts and some differences in equipment, Cheshire Hall has been the primary focus of Global MedChoices’ efforts, he said. As it is currently configured, he said, the hospital is probably capable of handling a maximum of 10 medical tourism cases a week, but Bresch hesitates to call that the ceiling for medical tourism in the islands.

Opening the unused wing at Cheshire Hall would double its capacity, and an efficient hospital with two modern operating rooms can handle up to 10 procedures a day, he said.

New companies are entering into the booking and reservation side of the business, and the government has identified medical tourism as one of the most promising areas for development and investment in the nation.

 

Currently performed areas of medical tourism include:

  • Total knee replacement
  • Uni knee replacement
  • Total hip replacement
  • Hip resurfacing
  • Shoulder arthroscopy
  • Knee arthroscopy
  • Endoscopic carpal tunnel release
  • Plastic surgery
 

Did you know?

Grand Turk and Providenciales each have a modern medical facility.

 

Global MedChoices expects to handle 200 procedures in TCI in 2014.

Image: janulla/istock.com