FRIDAY, JUNE 8: Medical tourism is one of the money-making ideas being “explored” (translation: “desperately grasped after”) by our Hospitals Board.
If they want my vote, they’ve got it.
Money doesn’t grow on trees, but it lines the pockets of the rich and famous.
And there’s nothing the rich and famous want more (other than fame and riches) than to live forever, look beautiful while doing so, have a marvellous time taking expensive drugs, then rehabilitate themselves in style and write a book about it.
The Royal Gazette this week interviewed several people on the healthy prognosis for medical tourism in Bermuda.
One consultant proposed that Bermuda develop a “Betty Ford-style clinic” for addiction treatment. He also recommended, in language only a consultant would dare to use, “platforming Bermuda as a viable surgical tourism destination”.
Apparently, some cosmetic surgery, “weight loss procedures”, and prostate cancer treatments are being provided to medical tourists here.
There’s even a hospital subsidiary that offers “concierge services” for medical tourists. I don’t know anything about it, except for the fact that it isn’t mentioned in my own medical plan.
The official line is that people would come to Bermuda to avoid long lines and high costs in the US and other places.
That’s a lie, of course. The real reason people would come to Bermuda is to get their “treatments” — for weight loss, cosmetic, or addiction-related or whatever — is so that nobody knows what they’re up to.
They can disappear for a few weeks vacation and magically return slim and sober.
“Hi Charlie. I haven’t seen you at the country club bar for ages. You’ve lost weight! That’s got to be good for your back — you’re not swallowing pain-killers like you used to.
“And your prostate? That’s wonderful news, Charlie. Nothing like a Bermuda vacation to get rid of stress.”
Of course, Bermudians who travel know the risks — or rather, the certainty — of bumping in to somebody you know wherever you go. The more embarrassing the situation, the more inevitable it is.
I could tell you a few stories in that regard.
One time I was in a bordello behind a muffler repair shop in Kuala Lumpur — I was just looking for directions to a prostate clinic in the neighbourhood — when who should walk in but…
I digress. The point is that the world of the rich and famous isn’t a whole pile bigger than Bermuda. They know each other. It’s hard to sneak around without getting spotted.
Now, a good addiction clinic or high-class cosmetic surgery is in fact like a good bordello. It is comfortable and discrete. There are ante-chambers and doorways and parallel hallways to eliminate the possibility of bumping into anyone you know.
But of course it never works.
So you can imagine the conversation outside the entrance of Bermuda’s shining new $247 million hospital, when it opens the year after next.
“Hey Charlie! Another face from home! It’s like Westchester County in there: I know everybody. What brings you here?”
“Oh, I just got a splinter from a beach chair. Just popped in to get it removed. How about you?”
“Just visiting my mother’s hairdresser’s cousin. She came off her bike last week and got scraped up pretty bad. Big black eyes and bandages all over her nose.”
It’s no joke, of course. If King Edward VII Memorial can make medical tourism work for them, it will subsidize colonoscopies and cyst-lancings for me and my fellow Bermudians.
But there’s always risk in success.
Take poor Betty Ford, for example.
Addicted to alcohol
She was the wife of President Gerald Ford. She established the modern tradition of US First Lady’s energetic social activism. Her causes included breast cancer awareness, the fight for equal rights for women, and openness and honesty in public life.
She died last year, and how do people remember her? As a woman who (after leaving the White House) was addicted to alcohol and prescription painkillers, and founded and chaired the famous Betty Ford alcohol and drug treatment center.
So you can see the danger of success with medical tourism is that it becomes what Bermuda is known for.
“I hear Charlie and Judy are going to Bermuda for their honeymoon.”
“I’m not surprised — it’s about time she got help!”
Or as June might say to Charlie:
“Bermuda? What will people think? Let’s go to Jamaica for our honeymoon instead.”
But these risks are worth taking. A country in an economic downturn, with a lot more debt than it wants, can’t turn its nose up at honest money-making opportunities.
As the ladies say at the muffler shop, it doesn’t hurt anybody and it pays the bills.
Or as I’ll say, the first time I check in to Bermuda’s big new shiny hospital:
“Quick, get me a nose job before anyone recognizes me!”