Monthly Archives: April 2012
I am glad to see that many of the ideals I’ve promoted in the past – objective and unbiased medical review for medical tourists and consumers are starting to take flight.
I talked with John Coffey, in Cali, Colombia about his project , Guia Cirugia earlier this year, so I am pleased to see he was able to bring it to fruition. (Some people would see it as competition – I see it as a necessary and needed service for consumers – so I am completely thrilled!! I just wish there were more people interested in trying to ensure that patients (where ever they come from) receive high quality care.
JCI and the big regulatory agencies don’t count in my mind – there is just too much bureaucratic BS that gets in the way of actually getting down to the nitty-gritty;
Is the place clean?
Is the doctor licensed (at all – or in the specialty where s/he is practicing)?
Do they follow the generally accepted standards and practices for prevention of patient harm?
Do they have the technology and machinery to handle emergencies that may reasonably arise from procedures performed at that facility? (Let me tell you – if they are operating at a Motel 6, (as we have documented before) – the answer is most assuredly NO.)
So Kudos to John and everyone else at Guia Cirugia.com
Calling all Bogotá surgeons – if you missed the first chance to be interviewed for the first edition of Bogotá! a hidden gem guide to surgical tourism - don’t worry.. I’ll be back in the city this September (2012).
While my primary purpose for my return to Bogotá is research-related (I am working on a doctoral degree), I always have time to talk to surgeons about the new and innovative things they are doing in their practices.
Contact me through the site if you are interested..
Clinica Marly, Bogota – Colombia
Dr. Ricardo Buitrago, Thoracic Surgeon is now performing robot-assisted thoracic surgery with the daVinci robot at Clinica de Marly. He began performing cases with the robot in Bogotá early this month. The daVinci robot has been heralded for enabling surgeons to perform more precise procedures through smaller incisions. While I’ve interviewed several surgeons over at Cirugiadetorax.org about use of the daVinci for thoracic procedures (aka RATS), I’ve yet to see it in action.
In related news – I am planning to return to Colombia for a few months this Fall, and hope to bring you more first-hand information about Dr. Buitrago and his robot!
Despite a rocky start at the Summit of the Americas for President Obama (and talk of a widespread boycott of the Summit next year by a dozen countries), it looks like the deal brokered between Obama and Santos for a free trade agreement between Colombia and the United States will be implemented early. The agreement which was first signed in October of 2011 will begin in May.
This agreement will reduce the tarifs on 80% of all imported Colombian goods. (No, not cocaine – despite talks of legalization in multiple latin american countries.) These goods include the huge floral industry (if you’ve bought flowers recently – they were probably from Colombia), along with other notable exports such as fruits (bananas, tropical fruits), gems (Colombia is home to the world’s largest supply of emeralds, ladies..), their famously rich coffee, fossil fuels and other minerals.
Now if only they would make a special ‘fast pass’ lane in Customs for medical travellers returning to the USA as part of similar trade efforts.
More and more Canadians are becoming frustrated with the wait times for surgical procedures in their native country – as wait times for procedures such as joint replacement routinely take years.. instead they are turning to medical tourism to satisfy their immediate medical needs, and to get back to a normal, functional life faster..
This is big news in a country that prides itself of its ‘universal’ health care system – which fails to acknowledge the tolls their lengthy waits take on their patients. So – it may be free, but many residents are opting out.
In this story – documenting several patients who traveled abroad in the last several years – patients express their satisfaction with overseas services (which they rated as ‘excellent’ and ‘superior to care received at home’ despite having to pay-out-of-pocket.)
Interestingly enough – one of the main brokers (or travel agents) for these services – Shaz Pendharkar is a retired school teacher who readily admits he has no medical training. Despite that – he feels confident enough to recommend the services of medical providers overseas. He states that despite this obstacle, he “knows the doctors.”
While I am in favor of medical tourism to improve the quality of life for patients in North America (and other locations), I am still uneasy about the ready assurances Mr. Pendharker offers his clients, and his easy dismissal of the unhappiness of one of his former clients. “It was a butt-lift” he says, as if this in itself is enough to dismiss the patient’s claims of dissatisfaction.
I don’t know the facts of the case – so maybe his claim has merit – maybe it doesn’t. While patients should continue to seek medical care where they can find it – and overseas options are an excellent choice – I’d rather that someone better informed perform the brokering. How about you?
Do you want a high school principal chosing your surgeon, and your medical facility? Or would you rather someone with experience in evaluating medical standards do the job for you? I think it’s time people start applying objective criteria to the entire industry – and leave medical travel to the health care professionals.
Adriaan Alsema, the founder of Colombia Reports (the english language paper in Colombia) originally published this blog on their site – but since it’s a nice portrait of why Americans like me find Colombia so enchanting – I wanted to mention it.
Now the author’s reasons for chosing Medellin differ from my own since I originally went to Colombia to write – but his perspectives on the friendliness of the local residents is very similar. (Afterall – without their help – there would be no book.) No only that – but without the various episodes of random kindnesses from complete strangers – I would probably still be wandering around the back streets of Bogotá.
Of course – whenever I come across interesting stories, blogs etc. about Bogota and Colombia in general – I like to share them with readers, so they can get their own sense of the city.. Here’s one of my latest finds – at a fellow wordpress site, Life is Real Good
It’s a blog about the adventures of Eoin and Ryan, two young guys who spent six months exploring Latin America..
I received word today that Dr. Ruben Luna, general and transplant surgeon from Clinica Shaio in Bogotá, has passed away.
I met Dr. Luna a year ago while writing about Bogotá – he was a gracious and kind gentleman who didn’t mind taking the time to share some stories with an unknown writer. So, today, I would like to share some of my notes from those interviews with Dr. Ruben Luna.
Dr. Ruben Francisco Luna Romero, MD was also the Chief of Surgery at the Shaio Clinic, and was a member of the Colombian Association for Obesity and Bariatric Surgery.
Dr. Luna was a general and transplant surgeon who helped pioneer kidney transplantation in Colombia. During our interviews, He reported that he was initially training to be an engineer and had entered his third year of study in Spain when he decided to switch to medicine. He stated he had initially been dissuaded from medicine due to the long hours he saw his father work as a general surgeon.
Dr. Luna attended Universitario del Rosario for both medical school and his general surgery residency. He was working at San Rafael Hospital when he was approached by his department head who encouraged further specialization in Renal (kidney) and pancreatic transplant.
At that time, Dr. Luna’s sister was the Heart – Lung Transplant Coordinator at the University of Minnesota, and she helped arrange for Dr. Luna to complete a transplant fellowship under the guidance of Dr. David Sutherland, an American legend in the field of solid organ transplant. After his return to Colombia, Dr. Luna performed the first kidney transplant at Clinica San Rafael on Oct. 31, 1985. He went on to perform the first kidney / pancreas transplant at San Pedro Claver in 1987, and was part of the team performing the first heart – kidney transplant at Clinica Shaio in 1997.
He never forgot his commitment to his the care of his patients, in fact, He started a foundation to support organ transplantation for children and performed over sixty transplants (for free as part of humanittian efforts). His organization also convinced several drug companies to provide anti-rejection medications to the children for free. Dr. Luna helped to establish transplant surgery programs at Clinica Shaio, Colsubsido, San Pedro Claver and Clinica San Rafael.
In 1991 he was named the Outstanding Young Person of the World for medical innovation. He also established the regional procurement program now in place in Bogotá.
However, all of these achievements took their toll; at 36, Dr. Luna had his first heart attack. Despite two subsequent heart attacks and cardiac surgery, Dr. Luna continued to maintain a full-time surgical practice. In his spare time, he enjoyed playing golf.
His son, Dr. Ruben Daniel Luna Alvaro, MD maintains his legacy. He is a third generation general surgeon and maintains an active general surgery practice in addition to performing bariatric surgery and kidney transplantation as a staff physician at Clinica Shaio. He has been operating since 2005.
** This was not the first kidney transplant in Colombia, which dates back to the 1960’s, at Hospital San Juan de Dios.