Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Medellín: Medical Tourism Destination

Medellín: The Spirit of Latin America
By Stephanie Falcone

The Medical Tourism Association hosted a Familiarization Tour to the everlasting place of spring time, Medellín, Colombia December 8th-12th 2009. Nine medical tourism facilitators, insurance companies and agents from the United States, Canada and the Caribbean explored the high quality of the healthcare system, accreditation, warmth and hospitality Medellín has to offer their patients.

Upon our arrival, after only a 3-hour flight from Miami we were immediately welcomed with open arms by representatives of the Medellín Healthcare Cluster. From the moment we stepped outside there was a sense of freedom and relaxation in the air. We came down through the forested locale to a breathtaking opening, where we were met by the astonishing view of the entire city of Medellín, revealing the radiant lights from the hillsides to the mountain tops. As we drove down the light-encrusted mountain it was easy to imagine how one might fall in love with this city.

The familiarization tour was sponsored by the Medellín Healthcare Cluster, organized with the goal of promoting Medellín as a competitive medical tourism destination. The Medellín Healthcare Cluster has set exceptionally high principles for applicants seeking Healthcare Cluster membership. All amenities must go through an intense application process and avowal to go through or apply for the Joint Commission International accreditation within the next two years to be accepted. The Familiarization Tour included visits to some of the top hospitals in Colombia such as: Hospital Universitario San Vicente de Pa l, Hospital General de Medellín, Clínica El Rosario, Centro Odontol g Congregaci n Mariana, Clinica Odontol gica Promta, Hospital Pablo Tob Uribe, Clinica Cardiovascular, and Clinica Oftalmolgica de Antioquia-Colfan. In addition, participants had the opportunity to visit State of the Art air-ambulance company SARPA.

The City of Lights
Colombia is located in South America bordering the Caribbean Sea, between Panama and Venezuela, and bordering the North Pacific Ocean, between Ecuador and Panama. Colombia is the only South American country with coastlines on both the North Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea, and is persistently growing given the on-going development in domestic security since 2002. Medellín is the second largest city in Colombia, and Capital City of the State of Antioquia. With countless tourism activities for visitors, Medellín serves as a popular destination for international travelers. Medellín has breathtaking views of this magnificent city from every angle you may choose to look. During this time of year the city of Medellín hires 2,000 employees to string lights throughout the neighborhoods and countryside giving the city a magical feeling. The city gathers local traditions such as dancers, instrument players and multicolored characters as lights. Medellín created this project to attract international travelers, since most foreigners enjoy seeing unique places, food, and attractions while in another country. These lights are a tribute to the country demonstrating the most significant landscapes and icons from the region. Shortly after, the project was then implemented by other Latin American countries such as: Venezuela, Honduras, and Ecuador. Medellín began the renovation process in 2002, altering the aesthetic appearance of this beautiful city. Medellín is committed to position itself as one of the major players in the Health and Wellness sector of the Medical Tourism Industry. Between the years of 2005 and 2006, the number of foreigners visiting Medellín grew by 33.4%, from approximately 71, 000 to approximately 95,000 visitors, and grew another 20 % half way through 2007.

Local Cuisine
To start, one must sample the baked corn arepas (flat corn pancake) with butter and cheese alongside Colombian coffee. Colombian coffee is the ultimate desired beverage and is said to be the best in the world. Colombian coffee is primarily grown in Medellín, neighboring towns, and more mountainous areas such as Bogotá giving coffee a rich balanced flavor. Next, empanadas are a must have while in Colombia. Empanadas are typically made with shredded chicken, pork, beef, and ground meat but can be found filled with potato and vegetables; served with aji (hot sauce) and lime wedges on the side. In Colombia, empanadas are sold essentially everywhere in the city.

Hospital Universitario San Vicente de Paul
Hospital Universitario San Vincente de Pa l is a non-profit private institution with 96 years of experience and great national and international recognition. Hospital Universitario San Vicente de Pa l offers 648 beds to the public and is a Colombian Leader in healthcare generating health research, specialists in high complexity care, and experienced leadership in transplants. The hospital has alliances with the main universities in Medellín for education and research purposes in the training of doctors, nurses, nutritionists, and social workers, management engineering and social communication schools. Some of the hospital specialties include Cardiovascular and Thoracic Unit, Oncology Unit, Bone Marrow Transplants and Orthopedics.

Oral Home
Oral Home is a 24/7 dental clinic catering to emergency cases and general services to the community. Oral Home is not only a dental clinic, but has integrated the wellness sector even into their basic services. Oral Home has a 24/7 emergency mobile service which assists many international patients in comfort and satisfaction. Oral Home is equipped with the most advanced technology providing excellent results.

Hospital General de Medellín
Hospital General de Medellín is the only public hospital in the entire Medellín Healthcare cluster. Hospital General de Medellín is equipped with 423 beds, which provides intermediate and adult critical care and pediatrics services. Among its many achievements Hospital General de Medellín has become the first public hospital of third level to achieve National Accreditation (accredited by ISQUA) by the Social Protection Ministry of Colombia. Hospital General Medellín was also ranked in the 20 best hospital and clinics of Latin-America, ranked by America Econmicas, and is also participating in the first phase for the International Accreditation with JCI Standards that was organized with International Quality Resources Health Accreditation. The mission of Hospital de General Medellín is a social enterprise of the state that provides health services up to high complexity levels. Such services focus on patient safety and provide affection, confidence and satisfaction while promoting high-quality and good environmental practices.

Clínica El Rosario
Clínica El Rosario is a prestigious non-profit institution of religious nature that belongs to the society of Dominican Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin of Tour. Clínica El Rosario is a 240 bed multi-functioning hospital with two headquarters in Medellín. Clínica El Rosario is a pioneer in healthcare with a mission to contribute to life and health recovery through a comprehensive secure, humane and differentiated service with specialized personal and excellent management that ensures value creation for the target social groups, economic sustainability and performance in time. Clínica El Rosario’s international specialty services consist of Hip Replacement, Knee Replacement, Heart Value Surgery, and Radiology.

Centro Odontol g Congregaci n Mariana

Centro Odontol gico Congregaci n Mariana is a non-profit institution, with offices in the south and downtown areas of Medellín to provide general and specialized oral health to the public. Centro Odontol gico Congregaci n Mariana has a total of 16 rooms and three operating rooms. Aesthetic Dentistry, Oral Rehabilitation, and Dental Implants are the most sought after by international patients. Centro Odontol gico Congregaci n Mariana has a vision to consolidate in 2015 as the renowned oral health institution in the city for its technical quality and competitive pricing.

Clinica Odontol gica Promta
Clinica Odontol gica Promta has 21 years of experience providing the highest quality in comprehensive oral health services offering all dental specialties, with four clinics located strategically throughout Medellín. Clinica Odontol gica Promta serves 10,000 patients a month and has the capacity to treat 150 international patients, with 50 % of international patients being treated from the US and 35 % from Spain. Clinica Odontol gica is conveniently positioned only steps away from downtown hotels and only two blocks from popular international lodging.

Hospital Pablo Tob Uribe
Hospital Pablo Tob n Uribe is a non-profit institution with a mission to provide an incomparable complexity in the healthcare industry while contributing the most current scientific knowledge within a structure of Christian humanism. Hospital Pablo Tob n Uribe is the first and only hospital in Colombia to be both ISQUA accredited and receive the excellence institution certification of high complexity level of health in Colombia. Hospital Pablo Tob n Uribe is a 255-bed hospital specializing in Transplants, Advance Oncology, Palliative Care, Orthopedics, and Cosmetic Surgery.

Centro Cardiovascular Colombiano Cliníca Santa María
Since 1966, Centro Cardiovascular Colombiano Cliníca Santa María has treated patients with cardiovascular diseases in areas of prevention, diagnosis, invasive and surgical treatment. Centro Cardiovascular Colombiano Cliníca Santa María is another leader in Colombia healthcare, completing the first heart and lung transplant in Colombia and is a national and international reference center. Centro Cardiovascular Colombiano Cliníca Santa Mar a is committed to offering specialized services to its patients specializing in areas such as Angioplasty without Stent, Cardiac Value Replacement, Coronary Bypass Surgery, Cardiac Transplants and Hemodynamics. Centro Cardiovascular Colombiano Cliníca Santa María offers a total of 140 beds, 73 specialists, and has proven to be a leader with the highest quality standards in medicine.

Clinica Oftalmolgica de Antioquia-Colfan
Clinica Oftalmolgica de Antioquia-Colfan is modernly designed for all patients to receive the most proficient care and specializes in Phacoemulsification Cataract Surgery, Refractive Surgery and Corneal Surgery for international patients. Clinica Oftalmolgica de Antioquia-Colfan has a total of 59 specialist physicians, allowing this innovative facility to receive additional international patients.
Servicios Aereos Panamericanos “SARPA”

Sarpa is a charter airline company with offices in both Medellín and Bogotá that offers charter services, air ambulance services, domestic and international flights including load and passenger transportation. Sarpa is the first and only Colombian entity certified by the Colombian Civil Aviation Authority. Sarpa has attended to international patients in countries such as Aruba, San Marteen, Costa Rica, Peru, Ecuador and many more. This air ambulance group has 25 specialists, five anesthesiologists and 10 emergency specialists for all adult general illness, trauma, pediatric and newborns. Sarpa goes over and beyond expectations with safe and dependable transportation when it is most needed with revolutionary technology and human warmth.

About The Author
Stephanie Falcone is Membership Coordinator, and involved in managing the Social Media & Marketing Department for the Medical Tourism Association. Stephanie provides recruitment, coordination and retention support for members of the MTA. In addition, she supports the Health Tourism Magazine. She may be reached at stephanie@medicaltourismassociation.com or www.medicaltourismassociation.com.

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