- The Guide To Cartagena, Colombia
   The Guide To Cartagena, Colombia


Medical Tourism: Cartagena Medical City (2012)
by MARCUS on AUGUST 30, 2010

This tourism project, which has already begun construction, will have cutting edge medical clinics as well as a five-star hotel for patients and their families.

When former Argentina soccer player Diego Armando Maradona arrived in March 2005 to the Medihelp Clinic of Cartagena to undergo surgery to control obesity, he unwittingly helped to create one of the most ambitious health tourism projects slated for Cartagena, an up and coming international tourism hotspot.

Cartagena Medical City, which began construction two months ago in northern Cartagena will be a medical complex dedicated to high quality health services. The medical complex sits on 55 acres (22 hectares) that has been declared a permanent free zone by import/export taxing authority known as DIAN in Colombia.

The scientific director of this project is Francisco Holguin, who was the director of the clinic Medihelp at the time of the bariatric surgery for Argentinean soccer superstar Maradona. Francisco Holguin was also part of the medical team who performed the gastric bypass on the famous soccer athlete.

“The former soccer star arrived at the Cartagena clinic weighing 281 pounds (128 kilos) and within eight months lost 116 pounds, says Holguin, who admits that the fame of the Argentina soccer player combined with the news of the successful surgery created an increased interest and acceptance of cosmetic surgery. In fact, some say the incident made cosmetic surgery fashionable amongst certain circles in South America.

The Future of Health Tourism in Colombia

The medical procedure of soccer superstar, Maradona coupled with a study by the Ministry of Commerce, indicated that health tourism was one of the best bets for the future of the Colombian economy and were key to the development of the macro-project called Puerta de las Américas Zona Franca S.A.

The clinic will contain a high-tech hospital in its first phase and come equipped with 40 beds initially with expansion plans to house 200 beds by the end of the project. The institution will be surrounded by medical offices that house specialists that already operate in the Cartagena area and cover areas such as oncology, ophthalmology, dentistry, diagnostic imaging and radiology, orthopedics and joint replacements, as well as cardiovascular surgery and bariatric surgery.

According to Holguin, “Maradona’s bariatric surgery which costs between $30,000 and $40,000 dollars in the USA can be achieved in Colombia for $10,000. The Cartagena Medical City facility which operates in a free zone would have competitive advantages and offer quality standards as high as the USA”said the surgeon from the Universidad Javeriana, who worked as chief of emergency of the Fundación Santa Fe de Bogota, for 18 years.

According to Javier Mouthon, Cartagena Secretary of Planning, “this project, which would be up and running in 2012 is part of the growth dynamic that has been generated around the north of Cartagena (via Barranquilla), where there are 46 high-rise urban real estate projects of which six are already under construction or in the sales process.

Hotel, spa and exhibitions

The Medical City in Cartagena will go far beyond a mega-hospital with specialists. Martha Abondano, legal representative of the Free Zone, says there will be a five star hotel and spa, built on an area of 25,000 square meters. These facilities will help to facilitate the housing needs of both patients and their guests as they recover after their surgeries.

In addition, upscale restaurants will be built taking into account the special diets of patients as well as a medical and research center (17,000 square meters), a business service center (36,000 square meters) and even a space for fairs and exhibitions. The latter will be a Medical Mall, the setting for exhibitions of the biomedical industry.

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