Having Surgery in Spain - Our Experience with Medical Tourism
We have used medical facilities outside of the US before. Of course, we did spend more than half of our lives so far living in the UK and are used to the services there. We have had vaccinations, routine check ups and even dental cleanings in Malaysia, Thailand and Mexico. So far our experiences have all been good and saved us a ton of money.
This time we were faced with something a little more significant. Iain has a very special super power. He can grow nasal polyps better than anyone! Without going into lots of details about this condition, nasal polyps obstruct the nasal passages and sinuses making breathing so difficult that the sufferer has to endure the feeling of being very congested most of the time. At this point there is no known permanent cure, just routine treatment to minimize the effects of the condition. Nasal flushing and treatment with steroids sprays are routine care, but at some point surgical intervention to remove the offending polyps becomes inevitable. Iain has had this surgery three times over the last 17 years at different facilities all back in the US.
Iain is extremely familiar with his condition and has known that it was time for the surgery again for over a year; it was just a matter of where and when. We never considered doing it in the US because our health insurance has a huge deductible and accessing care is really difficult when you don't have a permanent home base. We decided instead to pay out of pocket and have it done somewhere else. We considered Mexico and even made some initial inquiries or perhaps the UK to avoid the language barrier but finally decided on trying out Spain while we were spending 3 or 4 months there. It's a country we are thinking about as a future home base and testing out the medical expertise available seemed sensible. Here's how it all went down!
Initially Iain sent an email to Quiron hospital, who he found in a google search as a private hospital that served English speakers (our Spanish skills are progressing but not to the point of discussing the intricacies of surgery). He received a prompt reply and in short order an appointment was scheduled with an English speaking ENT surgeon for a few days after we planned to arrive back in Valencia.
When we met, Dr Moya immediately made us feel at ease with our decision. His English was good, he was friendly, approachable and explained all of our options. After examining Iain he told him he was the "World Champion" of polyps... scoring 4 on a 4 point scale. While he offered him steroid treatment we all agreed, based on Iain's history, that surgery was inevitable. The doctor checked his schedule and could squeeze Iain in for surgery just five days later if he was ready. This meant running around the hospital during the next 24 hours getting lab work, a CT scan, an EKG and consult with the anesthesiologist all to confirm that he was fit for surgery.
The following Tuesday we showed up bright and early and were checked in to our private room waiting for Iain to be taken to the OR. After he was wheeled away I settled in and read a book in our room. A few hours later the porter brought him back a little woozy and speaking some Spanish. They joked that the anesthesiologists had used special drugs to improve Iain's Spanish skills. Dr Moya showed up to tell me that the surgery went well and that he removed tons and tons of polyps. He suggested an overnight stay to be cautious in case Iain went into fever after the extended surgery. I was surprised because the last three times Iain had the surgery in the US they couldn't kick him out of the hospital quickly enough. We had to be transferred to another room for the overnight stay but the doctor gave me his personal cellphone number and said to call if I needed anything or had trouble communicating with any of the hospital staff.
We were quickly moved to our second room. It was very comfortable and I was able to spend the night beside Iain. The staff were great, really not bothering us much, just occasionally checking Iain's temperature and bringing him some food and water. No drama, just simple care. In the morning, after checking with Dr Moya, they said we could go home.
The next day we came back to have the packing removed and Iain said he felt pretty good. He had very little pain and was starting to feel like he could breathe again. A follow up appointment two weeks later and all is still progressing well. He's even beginning to get his sense of smell back, ever so slightly. We made another appointment for a couple of months time just to check progress.
Let's talk about the money! Now bear in mind this is a private hospital, a public one would probably be less. We paid out of pocket but most people here would use private insurance and probably would not have paid as much. In fact, depending on the procedure, perhaps their insurance premiums would be their only expense. When Iain had this exact surgery in 2012 in the USA we recall the total cost being around $35,000 of which we paid about $7,000 out of pocket. That was five years ago and was just a day surgery with no overnight hospital stay.
Here's what we paid this time:
- Dr Moya's appointments (2 pre-op & 2 post-op) - 160 Euro
- CT Head Scan - 200 Euro
- Pre-surgery tests (Labs and EKG) - 147 Euro
- Surgery: Dr Moya and assisting nurse - 1,800 Euro
- Anesthesiologist- 400 Euro
- Hospital facility (inc OR costs and overnight stay) - 1,100 Euro
- Prescriptions ~20 Euro
Note: When we asked, Dr Moya himself gave us a estimate of the full cost on our very first consultation. He wrote all of the treatment costs on his prescription pad then signed and stamped it. Imagine that happening in the US... nope neither can we!
TOTAL COST = 3,827 Euros - About US$4,350 (which was $600 under the estimate)
So a big thumbs up from us: not just the finances, but the staff we encountered treated us with real care. They were human, gave us plenty of their time and were patient with us as we navigated with the best Spanish we could muster. Our experience was excellent and Iain feels a million times better now he can breathe properly.