South Africa off-late is developing in terms of medical tourism and have been attracting many people particularly from the African countries, Europe and the US too. People from the African sub-continent are particularly attracted to South Africa because the distance of traveling is substantially reduced as compared to the countries like Singapore, Indian or the middle east. Also, the facilities available in the private sector hospitals of South Africa, are comparable to the hospitals in the other developed countries. Statistics reveal that the growth in medical tourism in South Africa is making advances year after year. Around 350,000 tourists from around African sub-continent alone traveled to South Africa for medical treatment.
The medical facilities in South Africa prove to be economically viable for travelers from Europe and the US, as Euro and Dollar are stronger as compared to Rand of South Africa. In a few cases it has been recorded that treatments like an IVF, dental or dermatological treatment save more than 90% for the patients heading from the US or Europe.
Medical tourism market is growing in South Africa as more and more outbound people seek to take medical advise or treatment abroad for better treatment at affordable cost. There are even people to tour foreign countries because either the treatment is unable in their own country or the waiting time is too long. Some people are there who combine medical tourism with a vacation to a particular location and South Africa has been promoting its tourism widely for its varied geographical conditions, mountain climbing, safaris, wild-life sanctuary and much more such attraction. So tourists seek quality and accessible medical care at low-price and can also avail a holiday with the money saved. The orbit of savings particularly for American medical tourists has been estimated to be about 30%-90% depending upon which country they chose to travel. In case they chose to travel to Brazil, the savings maybe 50% and in countries like Thailand or India, they save a staggering 90% on medical expenses and if the medical facility is in Costa Rica, more than 50% of the money is saved.
A realistic example is, the full course treatment for Hepatitis C whereby the drug Sofosbuvir, costs $85,000 in the USA and only about $900 in India.Many African and Asian countries are now actively marketing its medical tourism industry and are gearing up for building a full-fledged medical tourism facility which will have various specialized treatment facilities like oncology, cardiac treatment, orthopaedic, haematology, and other such units available under one roof.
Kim Sung, was detected with chronic Hepatitis C and was hospitalized for treatment in his home country, Mozambique. Kim’s liver was infected and he required advanced treatment. His family took a decision to transport him to the neighboring country South Africa.
Hepatitis C is a viral infection which spreads through blood infected with Hepatitis C. Hepatitis- C causes liver inflaming, sometimes also leads to serious liver damage.It is relatively difficult to know if a patient is suffering from this viral infection, because sometimes it may even take years to detect the disease and it is a slow detectable infection. The common causes, symptoms, risk factors and treatment is discussed below:
Chronic hepatitis C infection begins with an acute infection initially. Acute hepatitis C may not be usually noticed and may not be diagnosed sometimes because it rarely develops any severe symptoms. Initial signs and symptoms may include fever, muscle pain, fatigue and jaundice. Acute symptoms appear in one to three months time after exposure to the virus and may last two weeks or even three months in extreme cases.
Acute hepatitis C infection doesn't become chronic always. Some people get cured and clear from HCV in their bodies after the acute phase, which is known as spontaneous viral clearance. Studies conducted on people diagnosed with the acute HCV, hows that the srates of spontaneous viral clearance have varied from 14- 50 percent. Acute hepatitis C also responds well to antiviral medication therapy.
Hepatitis C infection spreads when blood contaminated with the virus enters the blood of another uninfected person.
Worldwide, Hepatitis-C virus exists in several well-defined forms, known as genotypes. The most common one being HCV genotype, Type 1 in North America and Europe. Type 2 HCV Genotype too occurs in the United States and Europe, but is less common than type 1.
Risk of getting infected with Hepatitis C infection increases in the following cases:
Health care professional, who has been exposed to infected blood, this may happen in case an infected needle pierces his/her skin.
A person who may have taken drugs through an infected needle.
A person suffering from HIV can get infected.
A person, who has got a piercing or tattoo made in an unclean environment using non-sterile equipment.
A person who may have received a blood transfusion or organ transplant did before 1992 as the screening process was not developed enough in those days.
Baby born to a woman suffering from a hepatitis C infection.
Hepatitis C infection that persists over many years in a human body can cause significant complications, such as:
Liver cirrhosis or scarring of the liver. After about 20-30 years of getting hepatitis C infection, cirrhosis may occur. Scarring in the liver makes it difficult for the liver to function and some people may also develop liver cancer. An advanced stage can also cause malfunctioning of the liver or stop the functioning of the liver.
Doctor's first suggest to conduct an initial blood test and if it shows a presence of hepatitis C, additional blood tests are conducted to find out the extremity of the infection like- the quantity or load of Hepatitis C in the blood, identification of the genotype and tests are also conducted to check for liver damage.
Doctors usually may use one or more of the following tests to assess liver damage in chronic hepatitis C- Magnetic resonance elastography (non-invasive alternative to liver biopsy) and Transient elastography (ultrasound) or a liver biopsy.
Hepatitis C infection is treated with antiviral medications intended to clear the virus from the patients’ body intended to have no hepatitis C virus detected in the body of the patient at least 12 weeks after complete treatment.
The choice of medicines and the length of treatment shall be decided by the doctor based on the hepatitis C genotype,the existing condition of liver damage, other medical conditions and prior treatments.
Throughout the treatment the medical care team will have to monitor the patients’ response towards the medication.
In the extreme case whereby severe complications may have developed from chronic hepatitis C infection, liver transplantation may be suggested for the patient. Liver transplantation, is the surgery whereby a surgeon removes the damaged liver and replaces it with a healthy liver. The transplanted livers come from deceased donors, although a small number comes from living donors who donate a portion of their livers.
Kim Sung's initial diagnosis was carried out in Mozambique and doctor's arrived at a decision that the patient needs liver transplantation. An inquiry was made in the hospitals abroad and the family decided to fly him to South Africa for advanced treatment. Transportation of the patient was the challenge for the family, as they were not aware of the procedures. Their doctor suggested using the facility of Hi Flying Air ambulance who provide expert advise and state-of-art facilities for flying patient abroad. Also they operate in several countries including the African sub-continent. The family contacted the administrative team of Hi-Flying and they suggested that the patient can be air-lifted in a commercial flight by means of a medical stretcher facility taking into consideration the financial part. In a commercial medical stretcher, Hi Flying arranges to block few seats for expatriating the patient with a family member and a medical team comprising of a doctor and a nurse. The medical team monitors the condition of the patient throughout the flight and also the medication is taken care off during the entire transportation procedure.
The repatriation procedure for King Sung was successful and the patient reached South Africa safely. The family members lauded Hi-Flying and the medical team for their thorough professionalism.