big boost in medical tourism

Forget Africa's big game or unspoiled scenery. More and more foreign tourists are coming to South Africa for a little nip and tuck at the country's private hospitals, with safari on the side.

Forget Africa's big game or unspoiled scenery. More and more foreign tourists are coming to South Africa for a little nip and tuck at the country's private hospitals, with safari on the side.

Joy Kramel-Cox travelled 12 hours from London to undergo a tummy tuck, a nose job, and eyelid surgery at a private Johannesburg clinic, which cost her about R154000.

"After a lot of research on the Internet, I settled for South Africa. I loved the rates and the recuperation deal offered to me," said the 54-year-old high school drama teacher.

"It is no doubt that I would have paid more in my home country, and I got a chance to see the country while recovering.

"I also liked the feeling of coming back home after a holiday and people notice more than just my tan," said Kramel-Cox, mother to a 13-year-old boy.

Tour operators say luxury retreats in the popular Cape winelands, safari hide-outs in the Kruger National Park region and secluded coastal resorts are favourite recuperation spots among foreign patients.

The long holiday lets them recover in seclusion, returning home only once the bandages are off.

"Medical safaris are a growing phenomenon, thanks to the country's private hospitals that offer quality services that are on par with other hospitals in Europe," said Lorraine Melvill, founder and owner of Surgeon and Safari in Johannesburg.

South Africa's reputation for affordable, specialised medical care has steadily risen since the mid-1990s.

The handful of medical tourism companies operating are reporting an increased market share from both overseas and domestic patients.

According to Melvill, the patients receive extensive consultations before making the trip, and their price tag includes flights, visas and accommodation, as well as the hospital fees.

"A lot of Europeans choose five-star luxury lodges where they can have game drives and enjoy the African sun while recovering," said Melvill. - Sapa-AFP

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