Sunday, February 26, 2006


The market can work in medicine too if it is allowed

The number of foreigners having plastic surgery in South Africa has shot up dramatically in the past year. "In December 2004 we had six patients and last month we had 25," said Peter Rodway, managing director of Mediscapes, which sells cosmetic surgery packages, mostly to foreigners on holiday in Cape Town. The packages include the procedure, accommodation, tourist excursions and the assistance of therapists and nurses during recovery. While foreigners wanted a wide range of procedures, Mr Rodway said: "Without question the most popular is breast augmentation." The next most popular procedures are tummy tucks, rhinoplasty, liposuction and facelifts. And even though the rand has strengthened, Mr Rodway said the cost of plastic surgery in South Africa remained 60-65 per cent cheaper than in Britain or the US.

Johannesburg company Surgeon and Safari has also noted a marked rise in demand. "We were booked up completely in January," chief executive Lorraine Melvill said. "On average last year we had 30 clients a month and in 2004 we had about 15 a month." The number of bookings made through a competitor, Surgical Attractions of Johannesburg, has also grown significantly. "Foreigners are encouraged by the exchange rate, medical expertise and the anonymity," chief executive Ingrid Lomas said. All three companies reported that most of their clients were from England.

Cosmetic surgery had been demystified by extreme makeovers on television and in the press, said plastic surgeon Stuart Meintjes, of the Rose Clinic. The plastic-surgery craze has annoyed some surgeons in Britain and the US, from where many citizens also travel to Croatia, Belgium, Poland, Thailand or Argentina for cheaper prices. Mr Rodway said that after a successful trip to a plastic-surgery convention in London last year, he was asked not to return because companies like his were siphoning off British clientele.



For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL hospitals and health insurance schemes should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the very poor and minimal regulation. Both Australia and Sweden have large private sector health systems with government reimbursement for privately-provided services so can a purely private system with some level of government reimbursement or insurance for the poor be so hard to do?

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