The Dominican Republic has the beauty, location, medical personnel and the price is right for attracting international patients. And now, they have an international patient department located in Hospital General de la Plaza de la Salud. Due to the proximity to the U.S. and Canada, hospitals in the Dominican Republic are accustomed to treating these foreign patients. The price is considerably lower for patients from these destinations compared to their home country. The price combined with the luxurious resorts and beautiful landscapes it seems like the perfect destination for health, wellness and tourism.
The Dominican Republic is set up for success in medical tourism. They already have the tourist numbers, multiple international airports, Economic Free Trade Zones, a large export economy and specialties in cardiology, cosmetic, dentistry, cardiology, wellness and spa/ recovery. The key areas they need to focus on to become a medical tourism destination are:
- Training and certification of hotels and resort staff
- Training and certification of tour operators
- Centralization of a system for communication with patients
- Immigration support and better visa access
- Streamlined process that will create the country image
On a recent trip to the Dominican Republic I had the pleasure of attending El Hospital General de la Plaza de la Salud (HGPS) event where I gave a presentation titled Global Healthcare- New Trends, Drivers and Target Markets.
During my presentation I was able to share with the attendees different programs that the Medical Tourism Association™ offers which will be able to assist them with improving each aspect of medical tourism in the Dominican Republic I went into specific detail about the importance of certification for hospitals that have a large international patient flow.
It is not enough to just hire a translator, really giving the patient an unforgettable experience is when a hospital could really start to flourish. There is no better marketing tool than a direct patient testimonial!
In addition to my presentation there were several other interesting speakers including; Dr. Julio A. Castanos, chairman of the board for HGPS, Mary Miller, administrative manager, International Department, Dashira Martinez, public relations manager, and Desiree Diez, project manager for HGPS.
HGPS is recognized as one of the top hospitals in the Dominican Republic for the past 15 years. They receive more than 125,000 patients annually, domestic and international that choose this hospital for the specialized care and services. Some of their main services are:
- Preventative health
- Surgical services
- Women’s health
- Joint replacement/Orthopedics
- Adult and Pediatric Critical Care
- Plastic surgery
HGPS is affiliated with the country’s top medical school, La Universidad Iberoamericana and they develop relationships with international partners as a way to educate new medical professionals and to further develop the skills of their current staff.
Every year, thousands of individuals from all over the world travel to the Dominican Republic for vacation and healthcare.
HGPS recognized this as a growing market and decided it was time to really start focusing on this to keep the numbers going up. And for the patients they are already treating, they wanted to be able to improve their experience and have the tools in place to properly handle future international patients. This conference marked the opening of the HGPS International Patient Services department.
This department includes the following services:
- Medical and hospital services
- Currency and financial matters
- Travel and accommodation coordination
- Language assistance
- Concierge services
From the moment the patient contacts the hospital their care team ensures their medical needs, individual preferences and cultural expectations so the patient will feel safe and secure.
Historical healthcare – Hospital Central Romana
While I was in the Dominican Republic I was able to take a tour of the Hospital Central Romana which was originally built in 1917, but new additions have been added since then, the most recent in 2011. This hospital is interesting because in 1916 it was built for the workers from the sugarcane plantation.
It started operating with one doctor, two nurses and two separate areas; one for the workers and one for the executives that ran the plantation. The original policy of offering healthcare to all workers is still in effect today.
The next phase of the hospital was built in 1969 and was the first hospital in Romana to have air conditioning. Now, the third phase of the hospital that opened in 2011 will serve the 25,000 plantation workers and anyone else in need of treatment.
The hospital will operate with 84 beds, private suites, four new operating rooms, two intensive care units, a burn unit, obstetrics and gynecology department with two operating rooms, a neonatal intensive care unit and a helipad on the roof.
The new design was developed by the architect Malcolm Cottin and Silvia Sanchez from the Cleveland Clinic. The hospital is prepared to receive 150,000 patients annually and is working towards accreditation.
If you are in the Dominican Republic as a medical tourist, I would suggest extending your trip beyond the procedure or even make the request to recover in one of the Dominican Republic’s most luxurious resorts. Studies show that the majority of medical tourists travel with a companion.
As a thank you to the person you decide to bring along, treat them to a few nights at Casa de Campo, I guarantee they will forget they ever came to the Dominican Republic for a medical procedure. I was fortunate enough to take a tour of both incredible hospitals, present at the conference and then spend one night at this remarkable resort.
Casa de Campo is located on the southeastern coast of the Dominican Republic, 50 miles east of Santo Domingo. The resort offers many amenities you would expect from a Caribbean getaway; golf, spas, beaches, and tennis. What is unique about Casa de Campo is its shooting center and hunting grounds.
The shooting center is located on a 240 acre facility within the resort, and an additional 20,000 acres outside of it. The shooting center, created in 1986 offers the hunting of quail, duck, pheasant, and partridge.
Casa de Campo is also a golf retreat with 3 golf courses designed by Pete Dye. The premier of the three is the “Teeth of the Dog,” course which has been ranked the top golf course in the Caribbean, and offers a view of the ocean. The “Dye Fore” course also has a waterside view, while the third “Links” course is inland. Other sports activities include 13 clay tennis courts.
The “Cygalle Healing Spa” located in the resort, offers the usual massages, but has specialized massages for the golfers, or tennis players which are partially done with the balls used in the sport the athlete is trying to recover from.
If body treatments and massages are not your method of finding inner peace, then the water sanctuary and relaxation garden offered could help. Yoga and meditation classes are available as well.
All of the activities mentioned above would work for the companion, and some would work for the patient based on the procedure they have undergone. But, the beautiful lodging amenities would work for both.
There is an option to stay in the elite hotel rooms, elite suite or a private villa. The hotel rooms have recently undergone a $40 million renovation and are decorated in mahogany and local art. The next step up is the “elite suite” which includes all of the hotel amenities but with a living/dining area.
Finally are the private villas, which have a full living room, kitchen, and dining room; multiple bedroom with a king bed in the master bedroom. Other specials for the villas include daily maid and concierge service, and two golf carts. There are also six restaurants, and seven bars and lounges.
For shopping needs, there is a replica 16th century Mediterranean village featuring boutiques, art galleries, and artesian workshops, as well as a 5000 seat Grecian amphitheater where live concerts are held. The landscape, pools and overall atmosphere of this resort is beautiful and relaxing, and the excellent customer service would make recovering here seamless and enjoyable.
About the Author
Renee-Marie Stephano is the President of the Medical Tourism Association™. Ms. Stephano is also the Editor-in-Chief of the Medical Tourism Magazine, Health Tourism Magazine and Healthcare Development Magazine. Having a background in international marketing and relations, health law and litigation, she provides a valuable service to the Medical Tourism Association™ in these fields. She may be reached at Renee@MedicalTourismAssociation.com.