Risks of medical tourism as non-stop flights to Delhi are soon launched


DELTA (NEWS 1130) – Air Canada will begin offering direct flights between Vancouver and Delhi three days a week starting this October. And that has led to the suggestion the route could increase the number of people headed to the Indian capital for medical tourism.

However, Dr. Michael Curry, an emergency physician at Delta Hospital says the flights likely won’t change things. “If somebody is willing to spend tens of thousands of dollars to get a medical procedure done halfway around the world, whether they need to make a layover for a couple of hours versus a direct flight, I don’t think that’s going to be a determining factor.”

No matter what country you’re talking about, heading overseas for a procedure does come with risks.

“There are costs or complications from these procedures that are sometimes not born by the places doing and profiting from the procedures. So we end up in a situation where the Canadian system is covering up the aftercare and complications that may arise from services provided elsewhere,” says Curry, who teaches at UBC, has a background in medical legal issues, and is also a lawyer.

“The ones I’ve seen mostly are inadequate pain control, wound infection and the opening up of operative wounds,” says Curry, who has dealt with a number of patients returning from medical tourism.

“But I’ve definitely seen more severe cases. I can think of one patient that developed what we call a cerebral abscess, where a parasitic organism had actually infected and destroyed a large part of their brain after receiving dental surgery in Mexico.”

Curry adds there’s rarely a need for a person to go overseas for a procedure.

“For the most part, the Canadian system does a pretty good job of identifying who needs surgery. Where the system can fall down is on the wait times for what we call elective surgery. And we make you think these are all cosmetic procedures but sometimes these are things like joint replacement where they do have a big impact on a person’s quality of life and I think we diminish it by calling it an elective procedure.”

The non-stop flights being launched by Air Canada will operate until April 8th.

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