2,000-bed hospital touted for Cayman

A renowned Indian heart surgeon is exploring the possibility of setting up a 2,000-bed hospital in Cayman.

No deal has yet been signed, but the government is looking at the potential project by Dr. Devi Shetty, who runs several hospitals in India.

It is hoped that a hospital offering medical procedures for costs far lower than those offered in the United States will attract American patients, and their families, to Cayman, according to David Legge, the local public relations representative for the project.

The venture was featured in the Wall Street Journal on Monday. Although that story said the deal had been ‘inked’, Mr. Legge said negotiations were still ongoing and no final contract had been signed.

Dr. Shetty’s 1,000-bed Narayana Hrudayalaya heart hospital in Bangalore in southern India charges about US$2,000 for open-heart surgery. In the US, hospitals can charge between US$20,000 and US$100,000 for the surgery.

According the Wall Street Journal story, Dr. Shetty’s approach of dealing with huge volumes of surgeries, he has driven down the cost of health care in India by one billion dollars.

“Japanese companies reinvented the process of making cars. That’s what we’re doing in health care,” Dr. Shetty told the WSJ. “What health care needs is process innovation, not product innovation.”

The Cayman Islands venture, which would be privately funded project with no government involvement, aims at offering medical procedures priced at half the cost typically charged in the United States.

The prospect of medical tourism is being explored by the Cayman Islands government. Health minister Mark Scotland attended a medical tourism conference in the US recently on a fact-finding mission to establish if medical tourism could become the third pillar of Cayman’s industries, after financial services and hospitality.

Mr. Scotland said the government was looking at Dr. Shetty’s proposal.

‘It looks very attractive,’ he said. ‘What we have said is the government would support the development of that facility.’

Canover Watson, chairman of the Health Services Authority, said in a recent press release about the project that medical tourism held ‘great promise’ for the Cayman Islands and that the work of Dr. Shetty and his facilities in India were a ‘model’ for this industry worldwide.

Dr. Shetty has invited Premier McKeeva Bush to Bangalore to the inauguration of one of his other hospitals next month.

Medical tourists

According to a report by Deloitte LLP, by next year, six million Americans are expected to travel to other countries for affordable medical treatment, up from 750,000 in 2007.

Where a new 2,000-bed hospital would be built in Cayman has not been revealed, nor whether the deal would be a joint venture between Dr. Shetty and local partners.

Caymanian businessman Gene Thompson is the local representative for the project.

The Times of India, in an interview with Dr. Shetty, reported on Monday that the Cayman government has offered the doctor a 100-acre plot and that he had made a presentation to Parliament, which had invited him to set up the hospital.

However, Mr. Scotland refuted that, saying the government had not offered a site for the hospital and that the presentation had been made in October to the United Democratic Party caucus, not to the Legislative Assembly.

Mr. Scotland said this was not the only possible medical tourism venture for Cayman and other entities and individuals had also approached the Cayman Islands government with suggestions and proposals for medical tourism facilities.

Mr. Legge said the project would not just bring patients seeking high-quality, cheaper medical care, but would also create many jobs on the island. ‘It’s not just about medical tourism, but all the corollary business as well.

‘This could fill the empty seats on Cayman Airways,’ he said. ‘A lot of people will be coming to Cayman. Generally speaking, when patients come, especially for surgery, they tend to bring their loved ones with them and they’ll stay an extra few days on Seven Mile Beach.

The amount of revenue coming into the island will be huge.’

However, he warned that there were many other ‘suitors’ in the region that were trying to attract Dr. Shetty’s business to their shores, including the Bahamas, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.