The Australian: “Flying Out to a Low-cost Remedy”

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Public Surgery Waiting Lists See Orthopaedic Patients Leave Australia

In Australia, patients in some states and territories wait much longer than others for elective hospital procedures like orthopaedic and cardiothoracic surgery. Ultimately, ageing Australian patients suffering from age-related disorders like osteoarthritis can wait 3-5 years (or more) for much needed procedures such as hip or knee replacement.
The international healthcare landscape is rapidly evolving and adapting to the needs of patients locked in countries where either surgery wait times or surgery prices are too high for their average citizens.

World Orthopaedic is a medical travel agency based in Queensland and opens doors across locations like Germany and Thailand to Australian patients stuck on domestic waiting lists for orthopaedic surgery.

“We analysed the figures presented in the most recent Australian Hospital Statistics Report and revealed massive opportunities for patients stuck on waiting lists here in Australia.” said Dan Donner, Medical Director of  World Orthopaedic (formerly SkyGen Orthopaedic).

According to the Australian report, almost 800 thousand patients are added to elective surgery waiting lists each year and only 700 thousand patients are receiving the surgery for which they waited.

The surgeries required to correct age-related disorders are likely to result in an even larger issue.
“The waiting lists for orthopaedic surgery have already grown by over 10% in the past 5 years and are likely to continue growing alongside the steadily increasing age of the Australian population.”

“Waiting lists aren’t getting any longer because almost 100,000 patients are being removed for other reasons. The waiting lists aren’t shrinking either.”

“Unfortunately, the waiting times for patients in Australia are not likely to improve in the lifetimes of the patients currently on these lists.” says Mr Donner.

“The numbers are reported in a very shady way. Approximately 8,000 patients either ‘disappear from contact with hospital researchers’ or ‘died’ in the time they spend waiting for their elected surgery in Australia.”

“It seems very unusual for patients to be grouped and reported on this way, it’s very unscientific. It’s quite apparent the goal here is to avoid reporting exactly how many Australians died before they received the surgery they were promised.”

“Additionally, approximately 65000 patients become unfit for or are otherwise denied from surgery after having waited for it, according to the report.”

“By the time one of our first ever hip surgery patients contacted us, he had put on weight while he patiently sat and waited on a public waiting list. He eventually gave up waiting and started paying monthly premiums for private health insurance”, describes Jake Lemon, Executive Director at SkyGen Spine.”

“After waiting another 12 months for his insurance to cover his pre-existing hip condition, he was ultimately denied his surgery. Immobilised by pain, he gained weight while waiting for surgery and this excluded him from cover as a high-risk patient.”

Mr Lemon said, “It’s not a rarity for us to hear these stories of patients falling through the cracks. Most importantly, we provided this patient with an equally safe, immediate and affordable surgery alternative overseas. And we will continue to do this for countless other Australians.”

As SkyGen and other medical tourism facilitators like CosMediTour are rapidly developing their capacity for providing international healthcare to Australian patients, these companies appear to be effectively alleviating the current waiting lists and improve the state of affairs here in Australia.

“A patient may choose to wait on a public waiting list because they can’t afford $25-30,000 for a knee replacement in a private Australian hospital” says Jake Lemon.

“But with the entire medical travel package for a knee replacement including flights, accommodation and all the extras available to patients for between $10-15,000 we’re seeing growing numbers of patients leave the public waiting list to travel with our orthopaedic medical travel agency.”

According to the most recent Australian numbers, approximately 22000 Australians remove themselves from elective surgery waiting lists each year by having their surgery performed elsewhere, including overseas.

Not only does this shorten the waiting list and wait times for other patients, it may eventually reduce the economic burden of these “exported patients” on tax payers back home.
“Everyone’s heard horror stories of people travelling overseas for surgery independently and coming unstuck. In contrast, international healthcare facilitation by experienced agencies protects medical travel patients by escorting them through hand-picked, high quality hospitals overseas.” says Dan Donner.

“The thing is, patients actually save money when they travel for surgery with an agent so there really is no reason not to engage with a facilitator for your healthcare. And if anything were to go wrong, and it’s medicine so it does, having an agent on your side representing you is an experience unique to the world of medical travel.” Said Dan.

“The Australian healthcare system has its incredible strengths, but waiting times for elective surgery really isn’t one of them. As part of Australia’s largest medical travel group, we have the power to impact change here in Australia by sharing the unique strengths of offshore healthcare systems with Aussies waiting needlessly in pain.”


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