Heila Gibbs, a Gilbert resident, needed surgery after she tore tendons in her knee. The hospital care she received was the finest in the world, she said.
Gibbs didn’t receive her care from an East Valley hospital. She didn’t receive this care in Arizona or even the United States. Instead, she traveled to Hermosillo, Mexico, with an international group based in Tempe called MedToGo International.
“As far as going to Mexico and getting inferior medical care — forget it,” Gibbs said. “I got the best.”
Rather than put her under anesthesia for her surgery, she received an injection in her hip, Gibbs remembered. While on the operating table, the medical team drew a curtain over her abdomen.
Gibbs started to wonder when the surgery would start. She glanced at a TV monitor and realized they had already started the surgery.
“I felt nothing,” Gibbs said about the surgery. “The next day it felt as if I hadn’t had surgery at all.”
Now, a year and a half later, there isn’t even a scar.
Gibbs was struck by a car while she was driving in a grocery store parking lot. As she ran after the driver who was trying to get away, she felt her knee begin to throb.
A few weeks later, it was still giving her trouble. Her knee would lock up, causing her difficulty when walking. She brought it up to her son, a chiropractor in Gilbert, who directed her to his friend Dr. Robert Page, a local physician and founder of MedToGo International.
Dr. Page told Gibbs that surgery would be the only way to repair the damaged knee.
Unfortunately, Gibbs didn’t have medical insurance. She and her husband had traveled the world and then settled in the United States in their 60s. As a naturalized citizen from South Africa, she and her husband couldn’t enroll in Medicare because they never paid into the social program. For the two of them, Medicare would have cost around $1,000 a month, Gibbs said.
Since Gibbs was going to be paying for her medical bills out of pocket, Dr. Page recommended his company as an alternative to American medical care.
“If they (his patients) have insurance, I send them to the Mayo Clinic,” Dr. Page said. “We have great surgeons here in Phoenix.”
For those who don’t have insurance to help cover medical costs, Dr. Page suggests MedToGo.
MedToGo helps to connect Americans and Canadians, often those who either don’t have insurance or those whose insurance company won’t pay for surgery, with superior medical services in Mexico and Puerto Rico.
The company has focused on providing orthopedic, cosmetic, obesity, gynecological and cardiovascular surgeries, among others.
What originally started as research on Mexican emergency services for American tourists quickly turned into something different.
With rising costs for insurance and higher deductibles, companies like MedToGo are not going away, said Robert Page, Dr. Page’s son who works as the vice president of operations at MedToGo.
Often times, with high deductibles, some people find that they are responsible for the majority of costs of surgery, said Susan Klein, the head of business development. Others surgeries, such as weight loss and cosmetic surgeries, are deemed elective by the insurance companies and are not covered.
The medical tourism trade is just starting, but most are travel agents who have branched out, Page said. He said none is owned and operated by doctors like MedToGo is.
The company can do many non-emergency surgeries for 50 to 85 percent less what the same surgery would cost in the United States.
A typical hysterectomy costs nearly $10,000, but MedToGo can generally do them in Mexico for $5,000.
Despite the reduced costs, the company strives to ensure quality care. All doctors are extensively screened. Dr. Page completes a vetting process on both surgeons and hospitals before using them. Every surgery on MedToGo clients is also watched by Dr. Page. All of the doctors speak fluent English and most have completed their post-graduate training in the United States, Canada or Europe.
“It is very, very safe,” said Klein.
In the past five years that the company has sent patients to one surgeon, there have been no problems or complications in the 60 to 70 surgeries he has performed for MedToGo, Page said. Surgeries by doctors in the United States typically have a one out of 10 patients who experience complications.
In a typical month the company helps anywhere from 10 to 15 clients, but business also grows every month, Page said.
Many patients are from Arizona, California, Washington and Texas, but many are from Canada, as well.
Despite having socialized medical care, Canadians often face long wait times for surgeries, time that can lower their quality of life for years, Dr. Page said.
“Some treat it as a mini-vacation,” Page said. Many of the hospitals that the company sends patients to are in tourist cities, such as Puerto Vallarta.
“We provide a door-to-door service,” Klein said.
During the client’s time in Mexico or Costa Rica, they are met at the airport by a patient coordinator, who acts as a translator, guide and advocate for the patient.
“The quality of care is just as good as in the U.S.,” Dr. Page said. “Many patients say the nursing staff is warmer and spends more time with them.”
Gibbs agreed that her time in Mexico was fantastic.
“The hospital was as clean as Mercy (Gilbert Medical Center),” Gibbs said about her time in Hermosillo. “And the staff was warm, gave me more love and more care than anywhere else.”
Gibbs’ husband recently developed cataracts, and plans on using MedToGo. “I have complete trust in Dr. Page,” she said.
Next month, MedToGo will be in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, with about 20 patients. They also planning a similar trip at the end of January.
For more information about MedToGo or their services, visit www.medtogo.com
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