Visit Florida, and have surgery in Jupiter

Palm Beach County is known for its sand and surf, but its state-of-the-art surgical centers could soon be drawing international tourists looking for medical treatment and a sun-filled vacation on the side.

Jupiter Medical Center last month received a $500,000 state grant to market its medical programs to tourists in South America and the Caribbean. The hospital plans to use the money to help launch an international marketing campaign that promotes its work in spinal care, orthopedics, intra-operative radiation therapy, and alternative treatments for tumors.

Hospital officials say a growing number of patients from outside of the state are traveling to Jupiter for medical services. Many are looking for a hospital that offers the latest medical treatments and warm weather for their recovery.

“We realize that we already attract a lot of people from around the country,” said John Couris, Jupiter Medical’s president and CEO. “We decided we were going to go after the international market, developing a set of services that we could market directly in Latin America and the islands.”

The marketing program could be a boon for local businesses because many out-of-town patients travel with family members who stay in local hotels and spend money at area shops and restaurants, officials said.

“It is not just bringing someone in here to take care of them,” Couris said. “This impact every part of our community.”

In all, Visit Florida, the state’s tourism marketing arm, awarded $3.1 million to 25 groups under the new grant program designed to promote the state as a medical tourism destination and a place for those in the medical community to conduct meetings and training programs.

Jupiter Medical Center was one of three hospitals to receive $500,000 — the largest amount awarded to any of the groups.

“This grant is helping us accelerate the work that we need to finish up to go to market,” Couris said. “The reality is in Palm Beach we have great airports and a solid infrastructure. It is a great place to recover after a surgery.”

Couris said the hospital wants to work with the newly opened Wyndham Grand at Harbourside Place in Jupiter. The hotel is 2 miles from the hospital.

Dr. Matthew Stiebel, an orthopedic surgeon at Jupiter Medical, said he sees many patients from the northeast and Canada, and some travel from as far away as Saudia Arabia and Thailand in search of treatments that aren’t available where they live.

“Some of it is that they can’t get the surgeries done elsewhere,” Stiebel said. “Some people fly in because they want to recover in a nice warm environment as opposed to the snow.”

The hospital last month opened a $46 million pavilion, which includes a floor dedicated to orthopedics and spine care. The unit, known as The Anderson Family Orthopedic & Spine Center of Excellence, is designed to provide seamless care, allowing patients to transition from surgery to recovery and rehabilitation all in one wing.

Jupiter Medical Center has been recognized as one of the top hospitals in the country for quality outcomes after elective hip and knee procedures.

The hospital will also be the first in the state to offer the treatments using the newest CyberKnife Robotic Radiosurgery System, which allows doctors to treat tumors without surgery. The treatment is designed to be pain free and reduce recovery times.

In October, doctors at the hospital began using intra-operative radiation therapy to treat patients at the time of surgery. The procedure can eliminate the need for ongoing radiation treatments.

Anthony Addesa, medical director of the Department of Radiation Oncology at Jupiter Medical Center, said the hospital is still working to install the new Cyberknife machine. The equipment is expected to be operational later this month, but Addesa already has a list of patients waiting for the treatment.

“These devices that we have here at Jupiter Medical Center are part of our continuing effort to grow and be a world class medical facility,” Addesa said.

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