A centre of medical excellence by 2019

 

PROMED or the Council for the Promotion of International Medicine was recently created in Costa Rica with the aim of making the country into a medical centre of excellence within 10 years.

The group, whose 21 members include hospitals, medical tourism agencies, was formed to raise the below-par country.

Costa Rica is an increasingly popular destination, particularly for Americans. But there are only a few hospitals and clinics servicing medical tourists, and organisations marketing the country have not been working together.

Reports from the Costa Rican Institute of Tourism ((ICT) say that the country’s cosmetic surgery maintains a 15 percent growth rate and that in 2007 Costa Rica helped 5,000 patients in search for the best healthcare solution. This means 2009 will see 6,500 medical tourists. The organisation does not say where they come from, but other industry sources suggest that the main source is not North America but Europe, Mexico and Central America.

The ICT says that there are two niches; one is "health tourism" for people who want skin treatments, mud baths and other treatments in mountain hotels and spas. The other is “ medical tourism’ at private hospitals and clinics where the country has attractive prices. In the US, a heart bypass is US$100,000, but in Costa Rica is US$25,000.

One problem that has restricted growth of medical travellers from the US is that few hospitals have international accreditation. Two have JCI status, Hospital Cima - San José and Hospital Clinica Biblica in San Jose. The only other one known to be seeking JCI is the third of the big San Jose hospitals, Hospital La Catolica. A new Cima hospital in Guanacaste for 2011 is also expected to join this small group. Cima is part of the International Hospital Corporation (IHC) with hospitals in Brazil and Mexico.

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