Medical Vacations: a Poor Holiday Choice
Many people book medical vacations because the medical procedure that they want or need is not available to them in their own country. However, those traveling to Britain for medical tourism have found themselves without access to medical procedures; for example, a pregnant woman was forced to sleep in a phone box because she had nowhere to go. In addition, those on medical vacations are overcrowding their accommodations and risking disease, and those who regard health tourism as a final option are being refused treatment for HIV and cancer.
Putting a Stop to Health Tourism
In 2004, ministers in Britain introduced new rules to prevent health tourism, and to dissuade patients who travel to the UK for free NHS care. Failed asylum seekers are also denied health care and will only receive treatment if it is deemed “immediately necessary.” Several pregnant women who flew to the UK to seek asylum or medical tourism treatment were told officially that maternity care is free, yet they continue to receive bills for their pre-natal expenses and are threatened with court action for non-payment.
A survey of hospitals in the Yorkshire region has shown that they treat very few foreign patients, regardless of whether they are asylum seekers, visiting family, or have traveled specifically for medical tourism.
A Chance at Health Care through Medical Tourism
These patients have traveled from their own country for necessary medical procedures and if they are now refused treatment, there could be significant health implications for the wider British community one exposure and infection become rampant.
Foreign patients admitted in areas around Sheffield and Leeds are often seeking life-saving medical procedures, ranging from asthma treatments to head injuries. Those patients who are clearly suffering from an injury will be treated, but those with existing conditions, such as foreigners on medical vacations, are being denied their chance for health care.
Source: Mike Waites, “Britain’s Asylum System Shamed”, Yorkshire Post, January 20