Since Dr. Christiaan Barnard performed the world’s first heart transplant operation in 1967, South Africa and medicine have been synonymous. Capitalizing on its superb medical reputation as one way of overcoming the stigma of apartheid, South Africa has emerged as a world-class destination for health travelers.
Because of South Africa’s long travel times and relatively high treatment costs, most health travelers choose this country for its privacy, unique sightseeing opportunities, or both. For those who do not wish friends and family to know about their cosmetic and other elective procedures, what better excuse for a month’s absence than an African safari? Or for patients with a more charitable bent, South Africa and its neighboring nations offer vast opportunities for a few weeks’ volunteer work. Either option is a convenient way to pass a month or two and then return home rested and healed.
Those sensitive to cultural and language differences may prefer South Africa over some South American, Asian, or European countries because they’re more likely to be greeted in English. Cape Town and Johannesburg—South Africa’s two main medical cities&mdashare distinctly Anglo-centric within a melting pot of cultures and social classes.
South Africa and Medical Tourism
Long known as a center of high-quality cosmetic surgeries coupled with first-rate surgeons, South Africa has nearly as long a history of excellent dental care, particularly restorative and cosmetic. More recently, orthopedic surgery—primarily hip and knee work—is attracting European health travelers who are willing to pay higher treatment costs to avoid the cultural rigors of India or Brazil.
South Africa also boasts an enviable stable of well-established health travel agents whose services can be a godsend to any prospective international patient. The Medical Tourism Association of South Africa helps to maintain quality standards and service and to foster excellent relationships among patients, treatment centers, in-country third-party facilities, and international partners.
A word of caution: if you’re thinking “exotic far-flung vacation” when you think South Africa, you’re on the right track. You need to remember, however, that most cosmetic surgery protocols specifically caution against exposure to the sun after treatment. Since there’s no shortage of sun in that part of the world, plan to take your safari, bush trip, or beach getaway prior to your procedure.
Last updated on 23 May 2012