Opinion: Opportunity knocks

POSTED: 09/10/12 12:34 AM

Opportunity is knocking! On July 25 ground was broken on the island of Nevis for a US$15 million medical facility, the New River Medical Centre. The facility will be completed in late 2013 and according to media reports, will be the Caribbean Region’s first medical and rehabilitation centre.
Nevis Minister of Health Hensley Daniel says: “This is a new component being added to diversify the health sector. The health and medical tourism industry has emerged in response to the incredibly huge cost of having most surgical procedures performed in countries like the United States, Britain and Japan.
“Medical tourism has become big business for these countries by offering costs for patient care in an atmosphere that can often rival five star hotels, previously only found in the hospitality industry.” Health Minister Hensley further explained that there were several mitigating factors which led to the increasing popularity of medical travel among them the high cost of health care, long weight times for certain procedures, the ease and affordability of international travel and improvements in both technology and standards of care in many countries.
Hensley Daniel: “The avoidance of waiting times is the leading factor for medical tourism in the UK (United Kingdom), whereas in the US the main reason is cheaper prices abroad. In 2009, there were 60,000 patients going for medical treatment abroad in the UK.”
Opportunity is knocking! At the end of August, Indian Cardiologist Dr. Devi Sheti, his partners and Cayman Islands Government leaders broke ground at the new medical tourism centre. Dr. Shetty gave an overview to invited guests saying the facility will bring lower costs, a high quality hospital with the aim to be known as not the cheapest hospital, but as the ‘safest hospital’ in this part of the world.
Shetty added that he sees 60 to 80 children a day in his office back in India, and has to tell their mother’s how much an operation to repair a hole in the heart would cost, and if they cannot pay for it, it means the difference between life and death for the patient. He added that patients all over the world face the same situation, and that only 10 per cent of the world’s population can afford so-called tertiary health care. The cost of health care has become a big issue everywhere, a Cayman media house reported.
Dr. Shetty described the aforementioned as a drama and that someone has to stop it. He commended the government of the Cayman Islands for putting the necessary instruments in place to facilitate the Shetty Hospital to be built, creating an opportunity to stop this calamity that he described earlier.
The first phase of the project entails the construction of a 140-bed tertiary care hospital which is scheduled to be operational in November 2013. More than 200 construction jobs will be created to build the first phase of the hospital with another 300 jobs being created when the hospital opens in November of next year.
The premier of the Cayman Islands McKeeva Bush said the ground breaking not only marked the beginning of construction of the new hospital, but the advent of a new leg of the Cayman Island’s economy – medical tourism. Bush said that during the next 10-years, the project would add more than $3 billion to Cayman’s Gross Domestic Product.
While the hospital will be catering to medical tourists seeking cancer treatment, open heart and bypass surgeries, organ transplants, angioplasty and orthopedics, local patients will also benefit from the services and care and may no longer need to travel off island for such treatments. Imagine the cost savings.
Medical tourism is also knocking at Sint Maarten’s door. The interests shown by Florida-based Advanced Orthopedic Center since 2009 to invest approximately US$250 million in Sint Maarten in the construction of a medical facility catering to tourism would also complement the St. Maarten Medical Center.
Nevis, Cayman Islands as mentioned in this piece, and soon Barbados. Officials from Winners Development and American World Clinics are planning to travel to Barbados in the week of September 22 to meet with business and government officials to discuss health care tourism and the development of a US$100 million international medical centre on that island. It will feature 60 beds and 12 operating rooms and expected to be open in 2015.
Opportunity is knocking! The benefits to the Sint Maarten economy, to the business community, the employment opportunities, and the health (health care) of the nation, will take this country to another level in its overall national development of its people, future generations, and the economy.
Medical tourism is the key for the future development and enhancement of our tourism product and as a tourism destination. Opportunity is knocking at our door!
Roddy Heyliger

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