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‘Surgery tourists’ lack info on risks

Australians heading overseas for "surgery holidays" need better information about the potential risks involved, a peak national health body has warned.

A better public awareness campaign is needed because of the growing number of Australians saving cash by undergoing surgery in countries like Thailand, a House of Representatives inquiry into international health issues has been told.

The Consumers Health Forum (CHF) says the trend could have repercussions for the public health system in Australia.

"With the explosion of information on the internet ... people go on Google and find a procedure they can have in Thailand and away they go," CHF head Carol Bennett told the inquiry.

The federal government has no way of knowing who is undergoing these procedures, who is performing them and under what standards, Bennett said.

This poses significant risks to Australia's public health system if patients require follow-up at home or have adverse reactions without proper knowledge of the treatment they've received overseas.

"We need to be telling people what some of the risks are, what they should look out for, what questions they should ask," she said.

"People are voting with their feet ... but we've got to think about the implications of that, both for public health (and) also the cost to the system."

She said the attraction of overseas procedures was obvious, with the "pretty high" 18 per cent in out-of-pocket costs required for treatment in Australia encouraging people to go elsewhere.


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