Linda Stewart used a Kelowna-based company www.Meditours.org to arrange a medical tourism trip in May 2010 to get an experimental treatment for MS in India. Stewart is one of the unknown number of Canadians using medical tourism to access experimental treatments not offered in Canada.
Shaz Pendharkar, of Kelowna, B.C., is the first to admit he isn’t a trained medical professional. He is a retired school principal who connects patients to doctors he knows in India and works part-time as a facilitator. His business, Meditours, is small; he said he’s arranged 60 surgeries since he started the company in 2003.
“I’m not a medical broker,” Pendharkar said. “I really know the doctors well that I send my clients to. I’m more of a niche marketer.”
He arranges all travel details, exchanging medical information with doctors and organizing accommodations. He says he can get a patient into a hospital bed in India in as little as two weeks. Patients generally pay $10,000 to $12,000 for the package, depending on the surgery and not including airfare, and Pendharkar charges a fee of 10 to 15 per cent.
He stresses he doesn’t offer medical advice — just logistical support — and that he’s never had a patient who had a surgery go wrong, save a Vancouver woman who wasn’t entirely happy with her butt-lift.
Pendharkar doesn’t see the need for regulation, but admits patients do take risks, especially dealing directly with foreign hospitals.
“My biggest problem with that sort of system is not knowing the doctors,” he said. “You don’t know what you are getting.”