Medical Tourism for Lymphedema

BY Lynn Holloway, Parksville, BC

Medical tourism is a term initially coined by travel agencies and the mass media to describe the rapidly-growing practice of travelling across international borders to obtain health care. Services typically sought by travelers include elective procedures as well as complex specialized surgeries.

The concept of medical tourism is not a new one. Spa towns and sanitariums may be considered an early form of medical tourism. In eighteenth century England, patients visited spas because they were places with supposedly health-giving mineral waters that could cure anything from gout to bronchitis.

With regards to lymphedema, the destination 'hot spots' are Austria and Germany. After all, that's where all the compression garments are manufactured, so these countries seem to have the pulse on the best in lymphedema care.

Wittlinger CenterThe Wittlinger Therapy Center specializes in lymphedema treatment. It is a private clinic located in Walchsee, a little village in Tirol, Austria. The clinic was founded in 1971 together with the Dr.Vodder Schule of Walchsee, Austria and by Günther and Hildegard Wittlinger. Since 1996, their sons, Dieter and Andreas, took over the management of the clinic and school together with their mother. The clinic and school underwent a major reconstruction and modernizing.

AVERAGE COSTS FOR A TWO-WEEK STAY AT THE WITTLINGER CLINIC, AUSTRIA

(13 nights, Sunday to Saturday)

Single room (20m2)
Incl 1 hr MLD ................. $3,302 Cndn
Incl 2 hrs MLD ................ $4,095 Cndn

Dble bed for single use (30m2)
Incl 1 hr MLD ................. $3,392 Cndn
Incl 2 hrs MLD ................ $4,184 Cndn

(Prices are all-inclusive and may be subject to change or there may be additional charges for other amenities.)

TRAVEL COSTS

Vancouver-Toronto-Munich =$1,680

Vancouver-Frankfurt-Salzburg= $1,131 (Incl tax, fees, charges & surcharges)

ESTIMATED COSTS FOR LEAST EXPENSIVE TWO-WEEK STAY $4,500

Walchsee is situated in the midst of mountains and a valley, with a small lake where you can do all sorts of sports. The surroundings invite you to walk or bike to enjoy the beautiful scenery. During winter, there is cross country skiing, sledging, ice skating or you can even take a ride on a horse-drawn sleigh! The clinic is open all year round to enjoy each season's offerings.

Away from the main street, you will find the 40-room clinic surrounded by a garden, an indoor swimming pool, sauna (which is not allowed for edema patients) and a workout room. Each room has a balcony, private bath, TV, and small refrigerator. There are single or two-bed rooms, with some being wheelchair-friendly. Family members or friends are also welcome at the clinic.

After getting settled into your room, you will be introduced to the clinic and receive a timetable for your first day. By the way, all staff members speak English. You will meet the clinic's doctor, get measured, and receive Manual Lymph Drainage. The second day, you will receive a weekly timetable showing when you will have your massages and times when the clinic staff offer self-bandaging classes and other group activities specifically for lymphedema patients.

The doctor gives instructions to the therapists and also decides whether you need one or two hours of therapy. The doctor and the therapists meet weekly to discuss the progress of each patient and determine how to improve or change your therapy, if necessary. Lymphedema treatments always include bandaging, which is obligatory to leave on as long as possible. The doctor will also determine whether you require additional physical therapy.

If you have dietary restrictions or food allergies, their chef is a diet specialist and will prepare the food you need.

Saturdays you will get a massage, if necessary. Otherwise you will be bandaged and have an exercise class. You get a break from treatment on Sundays.

They can arrange a visit to Salzburg, Innsbruck or Munich for you. Each of these cities is 100 km from Walchsee and the trains run from Kufstein frequently to each of these cities. They also rent bikes, or are open to arrange a visit to Kufstein or Wattens, where the world famous Riedel Glass factory or the Swarovski glass jewelry is manufactured.

There is a tourist Information Office in the village. They also speak English and can give you advice on sites to see.

The best way to get to the clinic is to fly into Munich, Germany or Salzburg, Austria. The clinic staff are happy to arrange pick-upservice from Airport Munich or Salzburg to the clinic, if you let them know beforehand.

If you would like more information on the clinic:
Web: www.wittlinger-therapiezentrum.com
Phone: 0043/(0)5374/5245-0
Email: office@wittlinger-therapiezentrum.com


Foldi ClinicAnother clinic that some members have attended is the Földi Clinic in Hinterzarten, in the southern Black Forest area of Germany, near Freiburg. There are numerous airports available for travelling to the Clinic: Basel/Mulhouse, Zurich, Stuttgart and Frankfurt. From the airport, you would likely travel by train to get to the clinic.

The clinic is situated in the quiet and picturesque countryside. It has a capacity of 152 beds (76 single rooms, 38 double rooms), with 11 rooms having access and equipment for the severely disabled.

All rooms are comfortable with shower, toilet, and some are available with south-facing balconies. They are barrier-free and accessible via the clinic elevators.

AVERAGE COSTS FOR A TWO-WEEK STAY AT THE FÖLDI CLINIC, GERMANY

(13 nights, Sunday to Saturday)

These prices include medical treatment, physiotherapy with bandages, accom-modation & meals.

Single room
$5,345 Cndn

Sharing room with another patient
$3,580 Cndn

Charge for travelling companion
$1,747 Cndn

(Prices may be subject to change or there may be additional charges for other amenities.)

TRAVEL COSTS

Airfare from Vancouver-Frankfurt =$1,162 (incl. tax, fees, charges & surcharges); train fare from Frankfurt to Freiburg = est. $161

ESTIMATED COSTS FOR LEAST EXPENSIVE TWO-WEEK STAY $4,000

Each room also has a telephone and satellite TV with international channels available. Internet/WLAN is available either in the rooms or in the recreation areas.

Within the clinic itself, thematic foci have been established, such as in paediatric lymphology (the care of children with congenital lymphedema); oncological lymphology (the care of patients with secondary lymphedema after cancer treatment); and geriatric lymphology (the care of older patients with lymphedema and usually numerous accompanying diseases.

A further focus of the Földi Clinic is the interdisciplinary care of patients with lymphedema associated with obesity. Extensive nutritional advice, exercise programs and psychological support have been established.

The costs to attend either clinic are similar, however the Földi Clinic requires a deposit of $9,400 to be received in advance of your stay. And, if your therapy needs to be prolonged, they will require a second advance. At the end of your stay, any amount over what is owing is refunded to you. This advance does not include the cost of the manufacturing of your compression garment. General costs for an arm sleeve are $688 and for a leg stocking, $1,746.

If other health issues are to be managed in order to receive successful lymphedema therapy, there will be additional charges.

As with the Wittlinger Clinic, depending on the time of your arrival, you may start examinations and treatment the day of your arrival. Measurements of the affected and normal limbs will be taken and your medical history will be studied by the doctor. Following this initial intake and examination, a therapy schedule will be developed specifically for you.

Upon discharge from the clinic, a detailed medical report will be sent to your physician.

If you would like further information about this clinic:
Web: www.foeldiklinik.de
Phone: +49 (0)7652-124-0
Email: foeldi@foeldiklinik.de

NOTE: If any readers have travelled to either of these clinics, I would love your feedback about your stay and how accurate my figures are! Please write to Lynn Holloway at mlholloway@shaw.ca or call 250-954-3883.