By JEFFARAH GIBSON
Tribune Features Writer
THE team of professionals at the Medical Pavilion led by Dr Conville Brown recently performed a pioneering breast implant surgery - a first, groundbreaking procedure for advanced medical tourism in the Bahamas.
The successful procedure was done on an American patient with an American doctor at the Specialists' Centre, home to the Institute for Advanced Medical Procedures at the Medical Pavilion on Collins Avenue. It is a new state-of-the-art Ambulatory Surgical Hospital and Interventional Centre (ASHIC) with three operating rooms, one of which is a hybrid suite.
The surgery was a bilateral breast implant procedure; the implants were designed in Israel and manufactured in Germany, Dr Brown told Tribune Health.
"This patient is our first advanced medical touristic surgical case. I make that distinction because for last several years we have had a lot of patients come for stem cell therapy. We have done interventional procedures, but we cannot call them surgical procedures because this is the first time we have called it that," he said.
Dr Brown, who has been an advocate of medical tourism for the past decade, developed this procedure specifically for visiting patients who do not have access to this operation in their home country or prefer the confidentiality and affordability the Medical Pavilion offers.
"What generally happens when someone says they have a medical touristic programme is that they will have the patient come in and their local physicians will do whatever. I took it to another level. Not only will we have the patients come in, we will also bring in the expertise because that broadens the spectrum tremendously," said Dr Brown.
As in this case, the patient as well as the plastic surgeon where both brought to the Bahamas for the procedure.
"We are not just relying on our doctor here who may be slaughtered with work and not be able to accommodate the patient anyhow. We brought the specialist as well. And so this does two things: when the patient returns they have a doctor they can do an appropriate follow-up with, reducing the chances of any complications.
Apart from the uniqueness of its medical tourist programme, what was also special about the procedure were the implants used.
"You can get breasts implants in America every day, but these particular implants are not available in the US. They were designed by an Israeli and they were manufactured in Germany and shipped to the Bahamas. They are not FDA-approved, but they are utilised in Europe and elsewhere," explained Dr Brown.
"Apart from the fact that they are very pleasant to the eyes, they are supposed to feel very real. If you want to have a big bosom, generally with the implants that means a lot of weight which can cause back pain.
"So the beauty here is these are light implants. The person can get a big bosom or bust without the back ache and neck strain. So we will continue providing this service where the patient has a good feel, good look without the excess weight and stress," he said.
Three of the specialty implants were brought in from Germany for this procedure in the event one was lost during the procedure.
"The first (implant) went in. The second one got damaged, so we took the third one very gingerly and slowly inserted it. Everything worked out fine," he said.
Dr Brown said this procedure was particularly groundbreaking for the centre as its the first of its kind to be performed there.
"This is the first time we have gone to the point where we brought in the patient, the specialist and the special product, putting all three in one place and under one roof and having all parties happy. The local community also benefits because these people still needed somewhere to stay; they have to drive, they have to eat. The medical tourist has the ability to bring more money into the Bahamas than 95 per cent of other tourists, and that is conservative," he said.
"Think about it, if someone comes here and has a procedure, that is $20,000. They and their families still have to do what the average tourist does. That is book transportation, hotel; the family still has to do regular touristic things. Which sector of our country generates between $20,000 - $30,000 over two/three days? None," he said.
Several years ago, Dr Brown said he presented a concept to the government of the Bahamas with the view of developing medical tourism - a special kind that would distinguish the country from the rest of the world.
"One of the things I indicated to our prime minister at the time is that we had an opportunity to develop a special kind of tourism I classify as conventional medical tourism. This means an American can get this procedure in the US but will travel to India, the Bahamas or somewhere else because they can either get it less expensively or they can either get it with privacy. You travel here and you get your plastic surgery; no one is going to know. They will say, 'Ooh, I see a difference,' and then you can say can say, 'Yeah, I was exercising.' But they won't you know had surgery and the people here don't know you from Adam and Eve so you have that privacy," he said.
And while the Bahamas has yet to fully embrace this model of advanced medical tourism where patients travel here for procedures that have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the US, but can be performed here as the Bahamas is not under its jurisdiction, Dr Brown said the recent procedure at the Medical Pavilion demonstrates that there is indeed a market for it.
"You have what I recommended to our government, where we can be a sort of advanced medical tourism or transnational medical care," he said.
"A classical example: if you have a device or a therapy or an implant that is not FDA-approved you cannot perform that surgery in the US. The Bahamas, however, is not under the FDA. We have our own jurisdiction and so what I came up with is the idea of following FDA rigour in a non-FDA jurisdiction. The Bahamas, which is not an FDA jurisdiction, but the FDA has certain rules and regulations that are supposed to protect the patient and the country's reputation. So I said to our prime minster that we can sell FDA rigour in a non-FDA jurisdiction and we can make certain procedures, certain implants and technology available to the Americans that are not available in the States," he said.
The Medical Pavilion offers cardiac care, cancer care, digital haemodialysis care, imaging services, digital mammography, ethical medical research, transnational medical care, stem cell treatments, specialised pharmaceutical care and laboratory services.