It was a surprise for Holy Name Medical Center when its project in Haiti suddenly started attracting medical travel patients from Miami and Turks and Caicos last year.
“I never thought in a million years that that would ultimately occur,” said Holy Name CEO Michael Maron. “To me, it is also one of the greatest compliments … to have a hospital in the middle of nowhere and get a reputation, for family abroad to get told to come back for care.”
In fact, Holy Name was approached by the ministry of health in Turks and Caicos to officially treat all insured Haitian natives at the Hôpital Sacré Coeur in Haiti.
“It’s amazing. The volume is there,” Maron said.
So much so that the hospital has been able to upgrade from a 1900s-style, large wards only, to include four private, air-conditioned rooms.
The medical expertise is largely pooled from volunteer teams around the U.S. who want experience in non-resource-heavy medical care, which helps to keep operational costs low, Maron said.
While all this is good news, he said he doesn’t want it to become a destination to the detriment of those living locally.
“Our goal is to get it self-sustaining,” Maron said.
The 200-bed facility currently has a $3 million operating budget. The same size operation anywhere in the U.S. would be at least $300 million, Maron said.
This is just one example, though, of increasing links between New Jersey facilities and global destinations or organizations.
Hackensack University Medical Center has talked with St. George’s University in Grenada — a well-known medical graduate school — to discuss opening a facility on the island that could also be used as a teaching facility.
Currently, graduates may get sent to almost every time zone across the globe, according to St. George’s Dr. Fred Jacobs.
Hackensack’s director of emergency services, Dr. Joseph Feldman, lectures at St. George’s and said the idea of having a facility in Grenada isn’t a bad one.
“Giving health care consumers alternatives is what medicine is all about now. Improving health care in regions (like the Caribbean) elevates health care in the region and expands capabilities,” Feldman said.
What started as a common occurrence for plastic surgery has now become a service-focused method of delivery of care, he said: “It’s all about the free market and choices.”
Recently, Children’s Specialized Hospital in Mountainside told NJBIZ it is working with a for-profit company in China that aims to build 120 facilities focused on pediatric rehabilitation services. CSH will provide training to the staff in China as it fulfills a new government mandate focused on rehabilitation. In addition, the hospital has been approached by a company in India, according to CEO Warren Moore.
Laura Carabello, publisher and editor of Medical Travel Today newsletter, said the industry has seen significant growth in the last five years.
“Cost has driven (the options). Patients are looking for transparency and pricing options,” Carabello said.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean traveling halfway around the world, she said, noting that there are travel options in other parts of the country and hemisphere as well.
“In Texas, everyone goes to Mexico for dental care,” Carabello said.
Echoing Feldman, Carabello said the aggressive competition the U.S. is facing from other, cheaper providers around the world first began with procedures not approved by the FDA, but now patients travel for procedures such as joint replacements, bariatric surgery and cardiac surgery.
Want a hip replacement? Go to Mexico, and bring a friend. The cost for two, plus surgery, will be less than the total cost of surgery in the U.S. and in New Jersey, experts said.
It’s what the Walmarts and Boeings of the world are doing, Carabello said.