Jamaica argues it is ready for health tourism

 

In response to John Connell’s report on the prospects for medical tourism in the Caribbean, The Jamaican Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO) argues that what may be true elsewhere is not true in Jamaica.

Connell argues that plans for medical tourism supported by the "legendary reputation of Jamaican doctors and nurses in the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada,” forget that these doctors and nurses have moved overseas, leaving local skill sets bare. He adds that Jamaican health facilities lack international accreditation and have a myriad of structural, institutional and behavioral barriers that impede the development of high-quality health-service programmes, plus a public health sector that is ailing and creaking.

JAMPRO argues that a viable health and wellness market, rather than medical travel, could be only three or four years away. A JAMPRO committee is expected to produce a concept paper on health and wellness by December 2014.

The state agency points out recently announced investments by American Global and plans by Negril International Hospital to give Jamaica two medical tourism facilities, but not before 2017.

American Global’s plan is to develop Jamaica's first five-star medical tourism facility in Montego Bay. In the first phase, a 50 to 75-bed facility will offer cosmetic surgery, bariatric services and dental treatment. In the early stages, it will focus on non-invasive surgery and by the fourth phase all procedures planned will be on offer. The project is likely to be completed in four years.

The 100-bed Negril International Hospital aims to provide medical treatment that specializes in emergency care, and surgical procedures. The target is Jamaican nationals, the million tourists that visit Negril each year, and medical tourists. There are no private hospitals in Negril and the Negril International Hospital aims to fill this void.

Connell refers to an existing location - MoBay Hope Medical Centre – as an example of failed cosmetic surgery tourism. Hospiten Jamaica, the subsidiary of Spanish company Grupo Hospiten International, which owns MoBay Hope, says it no longer operates a medical tourism facility. Nicola Francis of Hospiten Jamaica explains,” Medical tourism is not our company's focus or service offering. Our company assists and cares for clients who are already on vacation here on the island. We do not offer a tourist package.”

Jamaica is more geared up for health tourism than medical tourism. Jamaica Coalition for Service Industries (JCSI), the Jampro affiliate responsible for devising growth strategies for the service sector lists-
• 40 independent boutique and private spas in Kingston.
• 20 spas in tourism areas.
• 25 hotel and destination spas and wellness centres in the larger hotels
• 15 other establishments.
• Traditional spas including Milk River, Bath, Rockfort and Black River.

JSCI acknowledges that the traditional spas are generally in poor condition and service mainly a small local market rather than health tourists.

Jampro has a target date of 2016 to design the framework for medical tourism and wellness facilities. A JCSI report,’ Three-Year Service Sector Strategies and Expansion Plans” by economist Michael V. Julien in February 2013, indicates there is very little base data around from which to formulate policy.

Following the report, JAMPRO is working on:
• The development and adoption of a private hospital accreditation standard and certification system based on international best practice.
• Amendments to legislation to oversee medical facilities
• Developing medical liability insurance.

Infrastructural improvements, such as the construction of Highway 2000 which links the south and north coast of the island, and the revamping of the island's airports and seaports, will help the future development of health, wellness and medical tourism.

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