Surrogacy Mishaps Shift Medical Tourism Focus Toward Education

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The Bay Area Reporter said Planet Hospital closed its surrogacy services in December 2013. Following the sudden halt to services, an estimated 30 sets of intended parents are out of money and scrambling to secure a place in the mothering by proxy process and move forward with planning their families, Catherine Moscarello, former director of client services for Planet Hospital's services in Cancun, Mexico, told The Reporter.

Planet Hospital no longer lists surrogacy among the services on its website, but continues to cite assistance for patients seeking international medical tourism opportunities.

The Bay Area Reporter claims three former Planet Hospital clients filed an involuntary petition against the medical tourism company under Chapter 7, in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California, Feb. 18, 2014. The petitioners are asking for a combined $79,000 in refunds of fees for services that Planet Hospital has allegedly failed to perform.

Allegations of Failed Promises

medical tourism

Rupak Rudy Acharya, founder and chief executive officer of Planet Hospital, told The Bay Area Reporter that he removed surrogacy services from the company's website in January, but hadn't publicly announced the shutdown of offerings.

Unfortunately, I made some very, very, very bad decisions, which resulted in a lot of people not getting their services at the moment, but I've been working diligently to fix that, said Acharya.

The forced bankruptcy proceedings could remove control of the company from Acharya and his management team and liquidate the assets.

Moscarello allegedly has accused Acharya of stealing eggs from an unnamed single homosexual man through an unauthorized splitting of donor eggs among other clients; clinic and donor mishandling; falsifying medical documents; mismanaging company finances; and making false and fraudulent claims to clients.

Renée-Marie Stephano, president of the Medical Tourism Association, said Planet Hospital's alleged mishaps are uncommon within the health travel industry, but not isolated.

Concerns about the booming cosmetic surgery business in the Dominican Republic were enough to precipitate a U.S. State Department warning last week related to several cases in which American citizens suffered serious complications or died following treatments in the Caribbean nation.

The internet is flooded with advertisements from companies that lack the necessary experience, education and training in medical tourism, she said. It's is extremely important for patients contemplating travel abroad to do their homework and research the hospitals, clinics, doctors and related medical tourism companies and facilitators that may promise the world, but may in truth not be qualified to. A little due diligence will go a long way toward achieving the desired cost-savings and quality care that motivates patients to seek medical tourism opportunities in the first place.

Continuing Education Warranted

The Medical Tourism Association� offers health travel certification and informational webcasts to hospital administrators, healthcare providers, clinicians, insurance agents and brokers, medical tourism facilitators, travel and hospitality agents, and other related interests. Continuing Medical Education courses are also available at their annual event.
The Medical Tourism Association offers health travel certification at its annual event — the World Medical Tourism & Global Healthcare Congress.

Stephano said the good news is that many professionals in the business are now available to convey their expertise by way of tailored medical tourism certification programs.

Medical tourism has, without doubt, helped thousands of patients enjoy the benefits of sound and trusted procedures and treatments that, in many instances, they would not have otherwise been able to afford or had access to, said Stephano. But, the industry is not without fault. Successful outcomes cannot and should not detract from the pursuit of specialized training and continuing education.

The Medical Tourism Association offers health travel certification and informational webcasts to hospital administrators, healthcare providers, clinicians, insurance agents and brokers, medical tourism facilitators, travel and hospitality agents, and other related interests. Continuing Medical Education courses are also available at its annual event, the 7th World Medical Tourism & Global Healthcare Congress, Sept. 20-24, in Washington, D.C.

Stephano urged doctors and administrators at hospitals and specialty clinics seeking a greater understanding of patient markets to take part in an upcoming webcast, Passport to International Patients Training and Certification Programs for Hospitals, Wednesday, April 9, 10 a.m. (EST).

Certification Programs

Unfortunately, very few healthcare providers possess a clear understanding of the international patient market or how to address the needs and expectations of international patients, insurance companies or facilitators — regardless of their country of origin, she said. To bridge the gap between high quality medical services and a positive international patient experience, the Medical Tourism Association has developed a training and certification program for hospitals.

Stephano said those who achieve Certified International Patient Specialist (CIPS) and Certified Medical Tourism Professional (CMTP) and Certified Medical Tourism Specialist(CMTS) designations offered by the Medical Tourism Association communicate a specialized expertise and commitment to industry best practices that employers, healthcare providers, insurers and industry counterparts recognize.

To qualify for Certified Medical Tourism Specialist certification, an individual must maintain three years as a Certified Medical Tourism Professional or have qualified three years of sufficient experience in the medical tourism industry. In order to maintain higher level designation, advance continuing education course are required.