Friday, February 15, 2013

Canada - MUHC’s Kuwait case not “medical tourism”

MONTREAL - The surgeons of the McGill University Health Centre take umbrage at the recent critical statements in the local media about our care for a critically ill Kuwaiti woman in 2011 (Gazette, Feb. 2: “Kuwait deal uses MUHC doctors and nurses”).

Our surgeons are dedicated to providing world-class care to the Quebec community, teaching the next generation of surgeons and developing new knowledge through research that will directly benefit our patients. Based on our success in these efforts, we are recognized around the world for our expertise and the quality of care we provide. We are proud to have recruited and retained clinicians of the highest calibre, dedicated to living in Quebec and working at McGill teaching hospitals.

The Kuwait educational program, supported by Montreal Medical International and briefly described in The Gazette last weekend, came about as a result of our international reputation and our long-standing openness to training physicians from around the world. The collaboration has helped improve the standard of care for patients in Kuwait, and has provided much-needed funds to our hospital. Over the three years that the program has been in place, we have accepted only one patient for treatment at the MUHC. This was a truly life-saving operation on a critically ill young woman that could not have been done in Kuwait. To provide care for this young lady, we used unscheduled operating-room time and an empty bed for the post-operative care, resources that could not be used otherwise because of government funding constraints. The revenue generated from this single operation was then allocated to the budget used for care of Quebec citizens.

We all recognize that our health-care resources are severely limited. Our funding system does not reward quality, nor do we receive funding appropriate to the complexity of the clinical problems referred for our care. The opportunity to provide life-saving care to this one foreign patient was a win-win proposition that also benefitted the community to which we are dedicated.

This is not unique. We constantly read about compassionate care given to foreign children and adults in our province and by other leading medical centres around the world.

There is a great distinction between our care for a single patient in dire need and “medical tourism.”As Wikipedia puts it, “medical tourism is defined as patient movement from highly developed nations to less developed areas of the world for medical care by bypassing services offered in their own communities. Medical tourism is different from the traditional model of international medical travel where patients generally journey from less developed nations to major medical centres in highly developed countries for medical treatment that is unavailable in their own communities.”

It is a great disappointment that this compassionate act has been reported in such an unfair and unprofessional way.


Dr. Gerald Fried is surgeon-in-chief at the McGill University Health Centre.

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