by Laura Durán
Tijuana Health without Borders, the medical tourism business cluster that was created two years ago, now counts one hundred eighty organizations as members and has created the first academic program for medical tourism in all of Latin America.
Today more than ever Tijuana is looking to develop its tourism. Not necessarily the leisure tourism of earlier years, because that has been depressed by fear, Customs lines, and the recession. Instead, Tijuana’s new tourism is being fueled by medical necessity. Patients come here for the high quality of our medicine, because our doctors spend time with their patients, and because health care in Tijuana is much more affordable than it is in the United States.
“The response to our educational program exceeded anything we imagined” said Jorge Gutiérrez, the treasurer and logistics coordinator of the Cluster. “It demonstrates the degree of interest that exists in this area. We thought maybe twenty people would show up and instead we have one hundred thirty who are committing one hundred sixty hours of their time, an entire semester, to earn this university certificate.”
“This course in medical tourism will ensure that we are all on the same page with our counterparts in Japan, India, Singapore, Germany, England, and Costa Rica,” said Gutiérrez. The course is designed to prepare its students, among whom are doctors, architects, lawyers, and the owners of hotels, hospitals, and pharmacies, for meeting the needs of patients both from Mexico and from around the world.
The Health Tourism Cluster is a group of businesses that collaborate for mutual benefit, to improve productivity, and and to create jobs. Members include doctors of every specialization, hospitals, pharmacies, ambulances, hotels, spas, laboratories, and a wide range of other companies.
Gutiérrez adds, “When it comes to health concerns, we can’t turn back the clock. Patients come looking for medical attention. This is a market full of opportunities but first we need to prepare ourselves in order to make it happen.”
Hospital Ángeles, Tijuana
In dealing with the long lines at the border, the Cluster has had great success with the special pass it has developed for patients who live in the United States. “The pass is available from medical labs, hospitals, and doctors. It’s been working very well, the patients really like it” says Gutiérrez. “The pass allows our medical customers to use a special lane at the San Ysidro Port of Entry and cross the border in an average of fifteen minutes.”
Gutiérrez concluded by observing that the economic crisis has not ignored the health-care industry. In order to keep hospitals, labs, and related businesses afloat, many are now offering reduced prices.
Originally published by InfoBaja, March 2010.
Republished in translation by kind permission.