When Philip Sheldon* was told by his Toronto doctor that he was on a six-month’s waiting list for cataract surgery, this retired executive had the foresight to call his son-in-law in Bogotá to see what could be done. Despite comprehensive medical coverage in his native Canada, Sheldon wanted to speed up a condition that was getting worse by the month and was affecting the possibility of getting his driving license renewed.
After making some phone calls to some of the best ophthalmologists in Bogotá, Sheldon decided that the investment of buying a plane ticket to Colombia, spending days with family and recovering in an apartment in the capital, more than paid for itself as compared to six months of anguish, waiting for his government to define the place and time of his surgery.
Sheldon’s medical condition was not life-threatening and the surgery was performed in in under two hours. As a foreigner with limited language skills, his surgeon spoke impeccable English, having done part of his medical studies at Moorsfields in London.
Sheldon is one of thousands of foreigners who come to Colombia to be treated with outpatient procedures and in state of the art facilities. From eye surgery to dentistry, fertility and reproductive treatment, Colombia ranks with 16 of the best 40 hospitals in the Latin America, according to recent report by the economic journal, America Economia. Within the ‘top 10’ are: Fundación Santa Fe de Bogotá, Fundación Valle del Lili de Cali, Fundación Cardioinfantil de Bogotá and the Fundación Cardiovascular de Bucaramanga.
The country is also recognized internationally for specialized treatment in oncology, cardiology, neurology and orthopedics. Many of Colombia’s leading doctors have specialized overseas and are experts in their fields and recognized internationally.
With rising health costs rising in the U.S., some 1.6 million Americans travel overseas for medical treatment every year, according to the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, and a yearly growth of 35 percent. The American Medical Association claims that the trend is partly the result of high insurance premiums in the United States for non critical surgery.
Colombian hospitals are accredited with the highest international standards, as is Bogotá’s Fundación Santa Fe. Specializing in cancer treatment, neuro sciences and cardio-vascular surgery, the Santa Fe recently signed a joint venture with John Hopkins Hospital, so that specialized medical research can be shared on both continents.
Along with specialized care, Colombia is a pioneer in the development of pace makers, laparoscopic and transplant surgery. Another of the country’s top medical institutions, the FCI, Fundación Cardioinfantil – Children’s Cardio Foundation – is a global reference for cardiac surgery, electrophysiology and hemodynamic monitoring.
With 50 medical faculties in a country of 44 million, Colombia takes great pride in forming world-class professionals, who work alongside dedicated teams. In Cali, the Valley of Lilli Foundation Hospital is the largest Cardiac Hospital in Colombia. In Medellin, the University Hospital of San Vicente de Paúl has received international recognition for its use of digital and CT technology. Medellín has also become a global reference for research into dementia and early on-set Alzheimer’s thanks to valuable scientific work by the University of Antioquia’s Dr. Francisco Lopera.
While Mexico and Brazil compete for the health tourism market, Colombia has advantages which can’t be measured in numbers and statistics. The kindness and understanding of its health professionals can make a world of difference in the recovery of a patient from surgery. Thanks to generous funding from private foundations, many of the country’s hospitals are expanding with new wings and adding more private rooms to their existing ones. The expansion of specialized treatment can be seen in Bogotá with the ‘Clinica de Prostata’ (Prostate Clinic) of the Santá Fe Foundation.
To cure any doubts as to the importance of Colombia as a place which personalizes attention and care, one can follow the important achievements of doctors Manuel Elkin Patarroyo and his vaccine against malaria or neuroscientist Rodolfo Llinás who is Chairman of the department of Physiology & Neuroscience at the NYU School of Medicine.
As one of the most important scientists of reproductive medicine, Elkin Lucena, is credited internationally for performing the first successful In vitro fertilization in 1985 and which gave birth to the first Latin American reproductively assisted baby.
Colombia has a privileged location when it comes to attending to the health needs of foreigners. Just four hours from Atlanta and six from Toronto, Bogotá, is a world-class city with great gastronomy, cultural exhibitions and historic attractions. These are also important reasons for planning your next trip to the doctor. Hospitality in this country starts with your health.
*name changed for identity purposes.