Shetty Health to bring medical tourism to Cayman Islands


The Cayman Islands Government has entered into an agreement with Indian surgeon, Dr Devi Shetty to build a major medical facility there.

Dr Shetty, Chairman of the Narayana Hrudayalaya group of hospitals in Bangalore, India, revolutionised medical care in that country by implementing business practices that resulted in high-quality, yet cost-effective care at state-of-the-art facilities. Over the next decade, he plans to recreate a similar health city and medical university that also will revolutionize tertiary health care on the islands, providing medical procedures at half the cost of US facilities.

Shetty has responded to criticisms that high local labour costs means he could not offer Indian prices on the islands, by arguing that the cost-effectiveness of his methods is from increasing the output of each doctor, which also increases their skills. The outcomes from his hospitals, therefore, are superior to many US hospitals, which also bear artificially inflated costs. The cardiac surgeon expects, as a result, to draw the majority of his patients to Cayman from the US.

The first phase of the project, expected to begin in January 2011, will be to construct a 200-bed hospital and open during 2012. As the project develops, eventually to a 2000-bed hospital, doctors will be trained in the Cayman Islands at the medical university that also will be built there. Dr Shetty argues that the Cayman Islands is a good location with its political stability and proximity to the US. It also is a pleasant place to live, which will make it easier to attract highly qualified surgeons, he hopes.

Concessions made by the Cayman government to attract the hospital include waivers of certain work permit fees and duties imposed on the medical equipment, but not on the construction of the hospital. Dr Shetty and his partner investors, including local business partner Gene Thompson, have personally inspected several potential sites, but the final location of the proposed facility has not yet been decided. Although the government hopes to smooth the path, it has not promised to automatically give planning permission to any site chosen for Cayman’s biggest ever development. While the venture is a completely private partnership, it still requires government approval.

Narayana Hrudayalaya heart-hospital in Bangalore performs 32 open heart surgeries a day, almost eight times the average at other Indian hospitals, and the highest in the world. It is the centre of the rapidly developing Narayana Health City in Bangalore. This campus will consist of eight other hospitals and research institutes, ranging from a 1000-bed cancer hospital to a 500-bed eye hospital to institutes for neuroscience and thrombosis. Other health cities in India are in the planning stage.

Premier McKeeva Bush wants the hospital, as it would be a significant boost to the local economy that has suffered from a drop in the two key economic activities of tourism and offshore financial services. Not everyone on the islands is sold on the huge new medical tourism project. Some doubt that costs can be kept low enough in a high-wage economy to attract enough Americans. Others are concerned that Shetty’s high-throughput conveyor belt business model that was developed for poor Indians, will not work on medical tourists who want a high standard of care and personal doctor time. 



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