CDC Warning on Health Tourism and Weight loss surgery in Tijuana

CDC Warning on Health Tourism and Weight loss surgery in Tijuana


Drug-Resistant Infections in Mexico

Excerpt from CNN

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) is reporting that US residents who underwent invasive medical procedures (primarily weight-loss surgery) in Tijuana, Mexico have returned home infected with a serious drug-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa strain, a specific hospital being mentioned (now closed by the governement) and other unamed hospitals and clinics. This drug-resistant Pseudomonas is rare in the United States and difficult to treat.

These are the key points presented in the article:

  • Patients returning from Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico, were diagnosed with infections caused by an antibiotic-resistant form of Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria.
  • Most (but not all) of them had weight-loss surgery or an invasive medical procedure performed in Tijuana. About half of those infected had their surgery done at the Grand View Hospital.
  • The Mexican government has closed the Grand View Hospital until further notice.
  • CDC recommends that travelers to Tijuana, Mexico, not have surgery at the Grand View Hospital.
  • The CDC published a list of recommendations here.

The CDC states that the health traveler should be aware of the situation and suggests that the traveler take time to research the organization before selecting the service provider in Mexico. The CDC respects the patient's right to seek medical care outside the United States and mentions the importance of accreditations, specifically Joint Comission International designation,a US based quality accreditation for international hospitals. Since health care standards for foreign providers can differ from those in the US, special attention is placed on third party accreditations, and in our view this is the only way to objectively revie  a medical tourism facility. An accreditation looks at safety, quality and outcomes of the organization.

What can we learn from this warning?

When a traveler is still shopping around for weight loss surgery, this CDC statement goes a long way. Any one looking south of the border for weight loss surgery will immediatley be greeted by a substantial savings compared to prices back home, up to 50% less. I often warn potential patients not to be fooled by the price wars taking place online.The problem arises when a one time consumer (the patient) who is by no means an expert on how to select a safe destination, will now become a victim of the cut-rate deals offered online by dozens of organizations offering cheap weigh loss surgery. There are several online resources that can help the consumer weed out these cheap clinics. Consumers should be focused on selecting a reputable center that is best qualified to meet their needs. An organization that offers verified information on safety and outcomes. This is where third party accreditations are so important. I find that many patients will be blinded by the extremely low prices and will end up falling prey to the cut rate deals offered by the vast majority of these ill equipped, unethical, and poorly qualified organizations. With weight loss surgery being so expensive especially when the costs are covered out of pocket and insurance carriers excluding coverage, many US and Canadian patients look south of the border for a viable alternative.  Tijuana is very popular with patients seeking plastic, othropedic, weight loss and several other surgical procedures that are in high demand. Because of this higher demand, dozens of makeshift hospitals offering a wide variety of weight loss procedures have emerged all across the border towns in Mexico. A simple google search  will  reveal an overwhelming majority of less reputable organizations competing for this market. How do you weed out the cheaper outfits from the repuable ones? Fortunately, a simple google search will also reveal several reputable, certified centers, offering procedures in state of the art facilities with well respected medical specialists at their head. How can you sperate the good from the bad? Well the the first tattle tale sign will be the price. You will be amazed at the pricing wars and the cut rate deals being offered for an otherwise lifesaving and serious surgical procedure. It is easy to conclude that these centers are motivated by financial gain with no consideration for the patient's well being or final outcome, as they offer no accreditations whatsoever, with no one except themselsves vouching for their standards of quality or safety. As you analyze their websites always look for a third party accreditatio. These acreditations usually will award a seal or brand logo that appears front and center on the website pf the medical organization and will always track back to the website of the accreditor where the accredited hospital will be listed. Beware of the false advertising schemes, as you will find many logos, badges and awards on their pages but if you click on these logos they will not lead back to a third party accreditation. 

The American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery as well as the American College of Surgeons have published statements on Health Tourism and their recommendations. They all agree that accreditations are the single most important indicator of quality standards. Don't believe everything you read, trust accreditations. I  believe that this CDC warning carries a lot of weight as it is a reminder that quality in medicine equals safety. As a surgeon, I have dedicated over 20 years in the field of bariatric and metabolic surgery. My philosophy is simple, patient well being comes first. As an organization we are dedicated to developing and constantly improving the quality and safety of our practice. These are called global bariatric standards of quality and they translate into safer medical treatments with better more effective outcomes. If you want to know if an organization practices these standards, the only way to know for sure is to look for quality accreditations. The most trusted accrediations awarded internationally are The Joint Commission International and Centers of Excellence in Bariatric and Metabolic Surgery. A good resource to research a Health Tourism destination and become an expert at rating an organization before you decide to travel is


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