Dominican Republic develops long term plan for medical tourism

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Health and tourism departments in the Dominican Republic (DR) are said to be developing a long-term plan for medical tourism. If they have met their deadline, further details may be revealed soon. So far there is no evidence of a report being presented to politicians, meanwhile new cases of botched DR cosmetic surgery tourism have surfaced in other countries.

Decree 787-21 of President Luis Abinader, issued at the end of 2021, instructed the Ministry of Public Health and Ministry of Tourism (Mitur) to develop policies and strategies aimed at sustainable development in medical tourism. It also instructed the Ministry of Public Health to sign an inter-institutional agreement to elaborate policies and strategies aimed at developing this market.

The decree demanded a report that must include a survey of the current situation of health tourism in the DR and short, medium, and long-term proposals aimed at institutionalising and strengthening the sector.

The decree demanded that these ministries must deliver and present the report to the Health Cabinet before March 6 2022.

Separate to the report, the Central Bank reported a change in the tourist profile of those who visited the Dominican Republic in 2021, highlighting the growth of medical tourism in its statistics. According to the report, medical tourism increased in 2021 compared to 2019, going from 0.5% of air travel to 3.7% during the period. No details of numbers or revenue have been released.

Meanwhile, in recent weeks, more cases have emerged of botched cosmetic surgery on Americans who travelled there for low cost treatment in 2021. Over the last few years, several Americans have died or been seriously injured after having low cost cosmetic surgery in the Dominican Republic.

The most common cause of concern is treatments for Brazilian butt lift (BBL) surgery. According to a multi-society task force, which includes the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS), one in 3,000 people die from getting BBLs, making it the single most deadly procedure in cosmetic surgery. Most of these deaths occur in the Dominican Republic, Mexico or Turkey, where the operations are significantly cheaper. Doctors at these high-volume centres may not be board certified or medically qualified surgeons. Even in the USA, BBL leads to deaths and injuries.