Unnecessary surgery scams.

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24 October 2018 Current events and scams
by Craig Morrison

In a foreign country? Don’t call the hotel doctor - call us first!

Most overseas travellers don’t think twice about calling the hotel doctor at 3am, when one of their kids is vomiting and crying with a terrible headache. But should they? Overseas healthcare is not the same as it is at home – and in some countries it may be a sophisticated, pre-planned scam.

In some countries, particularly poorer ones, not all doctors, clinics and hospitals are acting in the best interests of you, the patient. On the contrary, a tourist from overseas represents a significant potential revenue source – as long as they can get you admitted into the system – performing a battery of unnecessary tests and risky surgery, all paid for by a travel insurance company.


And how would you know?

A seemingly professional doctor in Turkey, or Vietnam for instance, calmly and coolly explains why you need the tests and procedures before being declared ‘fit to fly’, so you can continue on your journey or return home. The entire process may be an elaborate scam, just so an insurance company can be billed at inflated prices.

Some overseas hotels will even collaborate with a local doctor to direct ‘medical’ traffic their way, in exchange for a commission or ‘kickback’ from the doctor. Most often, they’ll demand you pay cash upfront, perhaps in US dollars; where can you get those at 3am? As the scam develops, you’re told you need to be admitted to a hospital, your condition is serious, so tests need to be performed, and a lengthy stay may be necessary.

This may be true, and it may not – not all overseas doctors are corrupt – but you can protect yourself from unnecessary treatment. 


How to avoid surgery scams.

The best thing to do is to have the initial ‘triage’ of your condition verified by a doctor from back home. One of our doctors. This is one of the reasons why all travel insurers have 24/7 emergency assistance companies at the ready, with a Chief Medical Officer on call 24/7. At Holiday Rescue we can help you from the beginning, avoiding any potential scam, by setting up an online video or audio conference with a doctor from back home. If our doctor advises that further treatment is necessary, we can proactively direct you to a hospital known for ethical treatment, and where scams can be avoided.

Our pre-selected local partners can also help you navigate the minefield of a foreign healthcare system – which can be unnerving at best. What is certain, is that your overseas healthcare experience will not be the same as the one you know back home. Align your expectations accordingly.


“There’s no place like home.”

It never ceases to amaze us that travellers willingly go to out-of-the-way destinations, or to exceptionally poor third-world countries, but when an injury or illness arises, are stunned to discover that the healthcare system is nothing like ‘back home’!

Rundown overseas medical clinic.
When you’re overseas, the local medical clinic may not be what you’re used too!


Why would any reasonable person choose to have an invasive procedure carried out overseas, in a foreign hospital, rather than at home, where the standard of care is well understood, and follow-up care is readily available?

I can hear you saying: “yeah, but this is just another example of a travel insurance company trying to get out of paying a claim.” No, it’s about making sure, in advance, that the medical treatment you receive is appropriate. Based on the opinion of a doctor that works for an independent, third-party emergency assistance company and has no conflicts of interest. Whose first priority is to ensure the safe and reasonable treatment of you and your medical problem, with the least amount of invasive tests or surgery, to enable you to resume travelling or safely return home.

Even in so-called first world countries, it is possible that an ambulance may be in a collaborative scam with a clinic or hospital to direct traffic to one over the other. Let us arrange the ambulance, and direct you to a suitable trusted treatment centre.

The difficult thing is, because most travellers never expect the unexpected to happen to them, they don’t think about urgent healthcare until they need it, and suddenly, calling the hotel doctor seems like a reasonable thing to do.

Don’t. Call us first. All may not be as it seems, regardless of how innocent it may look. We can help protect you, and make sure you’re looked after.

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