Sunday, October 28, 2012

Travelling for treatment, not tourism

More renovation pictures arrive. It's hard to believe this is the same unlovely back patio and guestroom we started with almost three years ago, when we bought the house.

Almost every day I click back through the pictures Victor emailed to us, and feel transported to a warmer place and a more relaxed state of mind.

With the guest suite, the crushed-stone patio and its newly planted bougainvillea and oleander, it's easy to imagine lazy days hanging out by the pool with visiting friends and relatives. It's becoming the kind of tropical scene that lures so many of us to Mexico.

These days, though, my mind is preoccupied with a different enterprise that's drawing thousands of Canadians and Americans south of the border: medical tourism. Instead of afternoons by a pool, I daydream about gleaming white hospitals and sketchy strip mall clinics, dental implants and bariatric surgery. I follow the discussions about the relative merits of vertical sleeve gastrectomy versus Roux-en-Y . I pore over patient reviews of bariatric and cosmetic surgeons, of happy outcomes and, sometimes, life-threatening complications. I post messages on patient forums and contact support groups. I'm making travel arrangements, not for Mérida this time, but for the west coast of Mexico.

I should explain. I'm not in the market for treatment myself (although it's tempting to see about getting a bargain on a crown for one bothersome back molar). Instead, I'm exploring the world of medical tourism as a journalist for CBC radio.  I've been seeking Canadian patients who can share their stories about why they need to leave the country that's so boastful of its universal health care, to pay out-of-pocket for medical treatment in an unfamiliar land.

One thing I'm learning: It's nobody's first choice to go to Tijuana for major stomach surgery. Or to India for hip resurfacing, or Costa Rica for vein angioplasty. The "tourism" part of the medical tourism tag tends to be a bit of a misnomer.

By the way, if you're a Canadian who's travelling to Mexico or another country for treatment, I'd love to hear from you. You can reach me at deborahwilso at gmail dot com (it's not a typo, there's no "n" in the address).