Official advice for New Zealanders living and travelling overseas

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Medical tourism

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas, and this includes for the purpose of medical tourism. Many New Zealanders are tempted by the perceived prospect of cheaper and more immediate access to medical treatment overseas.

New Zealanders are strongly advised to discuss any plans they have to travel overseas for a medical procedure with their local health practitioner well in advance of their trip, to ensure they are aware of potential risks and implications, particularly if things go wrong. Your travel insurer should also be informed of your intentions.
Before seeking medical, cosmetic or dental treatment overseas, we strongly encourage all New Zealanders to thoroughly research the standards and qualifications of their prospective health provider and consider the following factors:

  • Communication – receiving treatment in a facility where you do not speak the language fluently may increase the risk of misunderstandings about your care.
  • Complications – countries vary in their capacity for the type of intensive medical care that may be required if there are serious complications from a medical procedure. In some cases evacuation back to New Zealand for care may be required. This is very expensive and medical tourism is often not covered by travel insurance policies.
  • Hygiene standards vary; diseases such as hepatitis B and HIV can be transmitted though unsterile medical equipment. 
  • Medication may be of poor quality or even counterfeit in some countries. 
  • Resistance to antibiotics is a global problem, and resistant bacteria may be more common in some countries than others. 
  • Blood products may not be screened for blood-borne infections. 
  • Flying after surgery may increase the risk of deep vein thrombosis (blood clot).

If you have an existing physical or mental health condition, we recommend you and your family carefully consider the extra stress and expense that may be caused by language difficulties or receiving medical care in a different cultural and economic environment. You are financially responsible for medical costs incurred overseas.

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