Every day, we hear about news and studies involving new treatments, surgeries and the increasing possibility of the cure of many diseases and problems that affect the world population. This is wonderful news for everybody and is amazing how human beings are finding ways and cures for many diseases that some years ago were unthinkable to prevent. Unfortunately, this does not apply to all human problems. The ageing process and death will not end so soon, despite people living longer and better lives. It is only natural to grow old and die, but it does not need to be so sad or hard.
Many elderly people face the rest of their life in their own home prison, although with opulence and surrounded by caregivers. They spend their last years “alone” at the same place with the same people.
Some of these patients are having medical treatment or facing a long time recovering from cancer or other sickness in the same city or place they once lived and worked. It is important to remember that after so many years of hard work and a busy life, there is nothing better than to spend the retiring or last years of their lives in paradisiacal places with all due medical attention.
Although most of the attention is usually given to surgeries and other treatments with short-term intervention, medical tourism also involves long stays and periods of treatment abroad, even with affordable prices.
Even better than to stay at home or in a hospital during long periods is to receive all medical services in places with breathtaking sceneries, near beaches with the usual warm care of healthcare professionals.
This is one side of medical tourism that there is little information about, beautiful locations that are destinations for treatments, for a short or long period of time.
Algarve, in Portugal, is one of the most beautiful and prepared places for short- or long-term treatments to recover from a surgery or to spend the last years of life enjoying the exuberating nature. It is a region in the southern part of the country with plenty of beautiful beaches, paradisiacal landscapes, some of the best golf camps of the world and with a great infrastructure to receive all kinds of tourists, even those looking to conciliate medical treatment with quality of life.
There are several cities near the sea with just as good healthcare systems and networks of public and private hospitals as those in Algarve. The region receives thousands of international patients for treatments, especially from those who want or need long periods of convalescence.
In fact, there are several villages ready to receive patients, many of whom have Algarve as a second home, spending months or years there as one of a few places where there is sun all year long in Europe.
However, this area receives tourists from all parts of the world with many purposes and is not exactly a destination only for elderly; there are wonderful resorts nearby the beaches in cities like Sagres and Martinhal, which receive families from all of Europe.
There is an international airport conveniently located in the city of Faro, near all other cities and a few hours from most destinations in Europe and easily reachable from the United States through Lisboa.
The sun, sea and beaches are used as complimentary benefits to patients who prefer to face a medical treatment walking in the sand than to spend all day long lying in a bed or watching television in a cold hospital room.
Being able to visit historical places dating back to the Roman Empire, cycle around the roads and safe streets to take in the beauty of the cliffs or enjoy the hospitality of a people well-prepared to receive international patients speaking all languages, makes Algarve an important destination in the medical tourism industry for those looking to stay long periods of time.
The entire region offers treatments beyond medical intervention using all the knowledge acquired from centuries of studies and expertise; beginning with the baths and thermal waters used by Romans to current techniques, clinics, medical centers, spas and hospitals that have a profusion of methods to cure its old and new diseases.
More than just a new medical tourism destination to compete with many others, Algarve has thousands of years of existence; some thermas were used before the birth of Jesus Christ. Just to be treated by experienced doctors in a place full of history is something not to be forgotten, better yet when the patient can choose the best treatment from a preferred hospital or spa.
The proximity to the African continent opens a big door for those who need high-level medical treatment just a few flight hours away, which avoids those risks related to distant travel after critical surgical intervention.
The affordable medicine provided in the region, quality of service, and expert physicians and technologically advanced hospitals capable of performing critical procedures makes Algarve a European centre of excellence in medicine.
More yet, for those countries in Africa whose language is Portuguese, Algarve provides patients with a very familiar environment to ease translations.
The difficulty ahead is to convince medical tourist facilitators and agents to pay more attention to this region of Europe that attracts millions of tourists every year, usually for vacation.
Despite the ability to perform any kind of treatment from a check-up to surgeries or transplants, the region needs to be known for the service it already provides for international patients. Most of them use the services when they need healthcare attention on vacation and are surprised by the level of medicine practiced, sometimes of higher standards than in their country.
This is why the Portuguese Tourism Association of Health and Wellbeing (Associação Portuguesa de Turismo e Bem-Estar – APTSBE) is working hard to show the advantages of this destination, not just for a tourist that suffers a stroke, breaks a leg, but as a medical tourism destination with an extensive range of treatments offered to all kinds of patients — even for Americans visiting the country at vacations or from elsewhere in Europe.
Due to the tourists coming from all international destinations attracted to the sun, the world-recognized golf camps and the safe and beautiful locations, Algarve prepares its infrastructure to receive any kind of patient speaking languages from almost all European countries.
From an accident to a programmed surgical procedure, patients soon discover there is no need to return home for a treatment. In fact, the patient begins to spend more time in the region even during severe or long-term treatments. The good news is that the major hospital groups in Algarve have commercial relations with the biggest medical insurance companies in the world.
The difficulty ahead is to convince medical tourist facilitators and agents to pay more attention to this region of Europe that attracts millions of tourists every year, usually for vacation. Many tourists have a second home in the area, spending months to alleviate the hard time of treatment in a sunny and paradisiacal place.
These locations need to be marketed by medical tourism professionals and sold to those patients who want to regain their health in a beautiful place or who need to face long treatments with the freedom to enjoy nature while there.
In fact, there is a big niche market in the medical tourism industry, which grows constantly with ageing populations who have enough finances to pay for better medical treatment in places like the Algarve.
More than a beautiful destination for vacations, these places receive patients from a surgery in their advanced and accredited hospitals to long-term interventions as oncologic treatments where the nature and hospitality may not reduce the pain, but will make treatment or, at least the rest of the patient’s life, more pleasant than a hospital room.
Algarve is an approved destination by the Portugal Bureau of Tourism – Turismo de Portugal, the Algarve Resort and Hotel Association (AHETA), the Hospital Particular do Algarve (HPA), the Portugal Government and many medical schools in the country.
Recognized by European organizations which demand a high standard of quality in healthcare, Algarve is certainly a medical destination for the present, more yet for the future.
About the Author
Adalto Felix de Godoi Graduated in management at the University of London/LSE with an M.B.A. from the University of São Paulo/Brazil. De Godoi works as an administrative coordinator in a JCI-accredited hospital and writes and has some books published about hospitality and humanization at hospitals.