Caribbean islands investigating potential of medical tourism

 

Jamaica tourism minister Edmund Bartlett says efforts are underway to use medical tourism to diversify Jamaica’s tourism product, and bring in much needed foreign investment with the construction of state-of-art medical facilities,” The growth of this form of tourism would lead to the development of new resorts that are conducive to recuperation and rejuvenation, present new possibilities for the employment of highly skilled and specialized health professionals locally, and recapture those health professionals who have migrated. The move to position the island to benefit from the lucrative medical tourism market is part of a thrust to diversify our growing tourism sector, as well as boost visitor arrivals and earnings.”

A task force has been established through Jamaica Trade and Invest to examine Jamaica’s potential as a medical tourism destination. The task force, chaired by the tourism ministry, will also guide the development of an appropriate policy and regulatory framework. The task force will see if Jamaica has a potential as a major medical tourism destination given its close proximity to the United States, which is a major source of travellers seeking outbound medical care, and which has a well established air transportation network that is conducive to quick and easy travel.

In Barbados, the Barbados Fertility Centre is advertising IVF holiday packages that bundle airfare and accommodation with airport and clinic transfers. IVF costs are not included in the package prices.

Guyana's President Bharrat Jagdeo had secured an $18 million line of credit from India to build a new specialist surgical hospital. The new hospital will offer specialised procedures such as organ transplants and cosmetic surgery to medical tourists. Construction will start this year and end in early 2014. An Indian company will build the hospital and Indian medical specialists will operate it.

In Trinidad and Tobago, Umesh Rampersad of the Private Hospitals Association of Trinidad & Tobago (PHATT) is keen on developing the US medical tourism market. But local hospitals only have 325 hospital beds available. In Trinidad, private hospitals attract patients from neighbouring Caribbean territories. But to take it to the next level, the ministry of health and ministry of tourism need to develop a strategic marketing plan that would quantify and qualify the opportunity as well as describe the best way forward.

St Kitts has started constructing an 18-bed surgical hospital, which will offer the latest CT, MRI and cardiac equipment. The St Kitts American University Hospital is a joint venture between the American Hospital Management Company (AHMC) and the Royal St Kitts Beach Resort Limited (RSKBRL) and is to be opened in 2013. The St Kitts and Nevis prime minister, Dr Denzil L Douglas says, "This new venture will attract patients seeking a quality medical tourism destination such as St Kitts while also finding an effective way of increasing access to state of the art diagnostic equipment for the local population." Randall D. Arlett of AHMC says, "The St Kitts American University Hospital is being developed as part of the overall continuing development of the Marriott St. Kitts Beach Resort complex.  This project is the result of an in-depth study on medical tourism.”

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