Interview with the CEO of CAPITAL HEALTH Hospital Group and the Medical Director of CityPraxen Berlin, Heinz R. Zurbrügg, MD, PhD
What is special about the concept of CAPITAL HEALTH/CityPraxen?
Capital HEALTH cares for patients who need to undergo inpatient treatment and has developed its own department CityPraxen for outpatient services. It is located on the historic Friedrichstrasse, in the heart of Berlin. Capital Health provides medical services for patients from Berlin and other parts of Germany as well as international patients. Our reliable translators help to break down language barriers as quickly as possible. In the case of severely ill patients with cancer, especially patients from abroad, there are often difficulties that need to be overcome regarding insufficient information and medical documentation, meaning that the provided documentation is not reliable enough to ensure precise planning for surgery. Therefore, most of the time, it is very helpful to undertake medical examinations at our outpatient diagnostic facility at CityPraxen.
Another specialty of CAPITAL HEALTH is that we review diagnoses as an outpatient service and if surgery should become necessary, only at this point the patient will be transferred to hospital. This concept saves time and money for our patients. The declared objective of your clinic is to provide successful quality service and personal care for your patients.
How do you achieve this?
I think that the most important aspect of medical work is building trust between the physician and the patient. And this in return is only possible, if the doctor is competent and effective in what he is doing. Therefore the patient can rely on the doctor and this creates trust on both sides. We all know that surgery, especially big surgery is a complex process. Even the best medicine cannot guarantee a one hundred percent cure. In most severe cases, we look for a reliable treatment plan that is individually adapted to the patient to make sure we do everything we possibly can.
How do you choose the best hospital for the operation?
Surgery can be carried out in hospitals that offer high-quality, specialized healthcare services for the relevant illness. Whereby one of the most important criterion is that the doctor who was responsible for the inpatient treatment will carry out the outpatient treatment as well. With this model we can ensure, that no information is lost and no misconception arise.
Is it possible for the patient to be admitted directly to a hospital?
Yes, if based on the documents provided or because of prior consultations with the patient it becomes clear that an inpatient treatment is necessary. Did you have any cases in your practice, where patients considered incurable, who could not be treated by doctors or hospitals abroad, approached you for a consultation or treatment?
Yes, such cases have occurred in the past. I can give you an example of a patient, who had a very large cancerous tumour in her abdomen. After two major surgeries, the tumour regained its previous proportions. The patient contacted several different European hospitals, without success. But we made the decision to perform surgery, and as the result of that we removed 16kg of tumour mass and 8kg of liquid.
How do you explain the success of such difficult operations?
I think the successful result of surgery depends on the medical knowledge of the surgeon, and his ability to put this knowledge into practice by developing all necessary strategies for the operation. It is also very important that the planned strategies are realised even if complications occur during surgery and that an appropriate solution is found as soon as possible.
Are there cases, where you are not able to help?
There are patients I have to tell, that surgery is pointless. In that case we assist the patient with a personalized therapy to help alleviate the physical pain and suffering.
Do you tell the patient the truth about his critical condition?
Yes, of course. Finally, the patient and his family members have to make important decisions. If a patient does not have long to live, letting him know will give him time to prepare. We tell the patient the whole truth when we have finished all investigations and we know exactly how the medical prognosis is. Of course, we say that in a gentle and careful way to make it easier for the patient to handle the truth.
Do patients contact you from abroad?
Although a significant part of our patients is German, we care for many international patients as well.
In 2011 we have performed a difficult surgery on a 41 year old patient, a mother of two children from Turkey. In 2001 a chondrosarcoma of the left hip was diagnosed. After numerous surgeries the malignant tumor could not be stopped, on the contrary it had spread to other organ parts in the pelvis. The patient was in great pain and was only able to lie in a prone position (face-down), to move in a sitting or supine position (face-up) was not possible for her.
In May 2010 the patient was told, that any further surgical interventions seemed not to be promising. She was told to stay at home and simply wait for her death while lying down on her stomach. But her relatives were not ready to abandon her and searched for other treatment centers and they got in contact with the tumor center at CAPITAL HEALTH.
After surgical intervention that did not aim at healing but improving her quality of life, the patient was able to sit in an upright position, and could walk independently with the help of walking sticks.
A further example of a successful surgery on a patient from abroad was the case of a female patient from Saudi-Arabia. In the year of 2003 she was diagnosed with a malignant cartilaginous bone tumor. The origin of the tumor was in the right branch of the pubic bone. The doctors recommended that an operation would be the only option, during which the right half of the pelvis should be removed and the right leg should be amputated. This surgery was rejected by the patient.
The patient arrived in very poor health condition in Berlin in September 2008. The tumor filled almost the entire volume of her pelvis. We recommended an extensive combined therapy with selective intra-arterial chemotherapy and subsequent operation. After the tumor had decreased in size, we could remove it gradually during five operations. That was the biggest tumor of its kind removed ever until now. It weighed 18kg.
What happens after patients from abroad have returned home from their treatments? Will they receive further assistance from your clinic?
We try to keep an eye on our patients after treatment. Usually, patients are going to send their results to us and we will provide them with the correct dosage of their medication. Furthermore, we answer all their questions to their specific health problems. In doing so, we provide all necessary services and the charges are still the same as in Germany
What are the costs of therapy?
It always depends on the situation. Most of the time the patients want to know their expenses before the start of treatment. In such cases, we ask for the patient file and provide them with a cost estimate.
Do you help with Visa formalities?
Yes indeed. We send the invitation to the German embassy. Depending on the particular disease 1-2 people can be invited together. We have a lot of experience with visa applications and the straightforward process only takes approximately 2-3 weeks.
Dr. Zurbrügg, we thank you for the interview.