Medical Tourism at Sea

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During the 3rd Global Ministerial Summit held during the 5th World Medical Tourism & Global Healthcare Congress Dr. Saeme presented on the topic of Medical Tourism at Sea this presentation created an open dialogue on the subject. Several delegates in the Summit primarily those from the Caribbean Sea region showed real interest in the alternative of floating hospitals for the future.


These countries have been very familiar with the cruise industry for the last 50 years as it represents a large part of their national tourism market. They are knowledgeable about the need of modern medical infrastructure for their own populations and the population of tourists visiting their numerous islands and they recognize the challenges of not having a sufficient number of doctors and specialist to deliver the quality medical services needed in all territories.


When we think about travel and tourism we generally think about a destination in cities or other countries we seldom think about the cruise industry and travels at sea as it represents less than 1 percent of the world tourism markets.


When it comes to medical tourism it is unthinkable for many that the sea and a ship environment could be an alternative to host mobile medical facilities that can navigate between islands and remote areas bringing the needed medical infrastructure and expertise to serve local or international populations.


Hospital ship or hospitals at sea have existed for decades and have normally always been linked to the military or the navy forces in war zones and disaster regions. I have been a doctor for 30 years and with that I have been involved in the operation of clinics and hospitals worldwide and of medical facilities in the shipping and the cruise industry.


With those experiences I have the conviction that the globalization the new way of operating modern hospitals and the way the cruise industry operates like a resort at sea all show the way for a new idea that could merge into a new hospital product at sea that has been adapted to specific needs..


With todays modern digital equipment the new IT technologies and telemedicine practices combined with international teams of well-qualified medical professionals there is no reason why maritime hospital solutions could not be feasible anywhere in the world if adapted to the market at a convenient building price and manageable at a very competitive cost compared to shore side solutions.


A hospital ship cruising in international territories is not subject to taxation the return on investment is superior to investing in hospitals shore side. Besides no taxes or added value tax on medical equipment and medicines there is a possibility of hiring international well qualified medical professionals that normally could not cross borders and practice medicine without the complex process of applying to practice in another country.


For a region like the Caribbean the solution could be national or multi-national as the common ownership of a hospital ship or ships could allow these countries to have medical service specialists that they typically seek out of their borders.


With telemedicine the medical files can be online in real time and the pre-and post treatment follow-ups will no longer be an issue as the ship would become an extension of the network of primary doctors and hospitals shore side any where in the world.

About the Author

Dr. Mohammed Saeme is an internationally recognized expert on Maritime Health and Wellness with more than a quarter century experience in total operation of medical facilities onboard cruise ships from the design to the ship's building to the equipment and staffing of operations with doctors and nurses. He is a Fleet Medical adviser and worked in different medical committees for WHO IMO ILO EU CLIA USPH and CDC as well for governments and shipping lines. His group of companies managed the medical facilities of no less than 34 cruise ships under the operation of 15 different cruise lines.