Cuban doctors come to court Canadian patients
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Saturday, January 20, 2007 11:26PM EST
A Quebec company is offering to fly Canadian patients fed up with long waiting lists to Cuba for surgery.
But unlike private health care options in North America, patients can get the care they need at half the cost.
"We're talking about something in the neighbourhood of half of what it would cost at a private clinic here and a tenth of what it would cost at the Mayo Clinic in the United States," said Services Sante International (Health Services International) spokesperson Alexandre Rheaume.
Cuba, in desperate need of foreign currency, has opened its hospital doors to foreigners for everything from hip replacements (costing between $5,000 and $6,000) to eye surgery (costing about $2,000). High-risk procedures like heart surgery are not available.
Some of Cuba's top doctors are now in Canada, finalizing plans to bring Canadian patients south.
"We receive patients often from Argentina, Mexico, Jamaica, Bahamas, even Miami," said Dr. Roberto Rubinos Ruiz, an orthopedic surgeon.
Although the country may be poor, its health care system gets relatively high marks.
While Cuba's health care isn't perfect, McGill University political scientist Philip Oxhorn said neither is Canada's system.
"They may not always have the best equipment, but we don't always have that in Canadian hospitals either, when it comes to equipment," said Oxhorn. "But in terms of training, in terms of the level of care, no one would say that it's third world -- just the opposite."
For a $200 fee, Health Services International will send a patient's medical records to Cuba. The evaluation will be ready within three days. The surgery, if necessary, will be done within two weeks.
However, Phillipe Coullaird -- Quebec's health minister, himself a surgeon -- said patients shouldn't be treated by doctors who are so far away.
"Personally I would never do this, I would never go abroad to have surgery from a doctor that I would never see or see with a lot of difficulty afterwards. It's extremely imprudent to do this," he said.
The company says it already has four patients signed up. What it can't say is what will happen if something goes wrong in Cuba, except that patients are responsible for their own travel arrangements and insurance.
With a report from CTV's Jed Kahane