Breaks ground in January
Indian cardiologist Dr. Devi Shetty revealed that his planned $1
billion, 2,000-bed medical tourism hospital in Cayman would likely be operational
in mid-2012 and will break ground in January next year.
Shetty, flanked at a press conference by
senior government officials, said the first phase of the Cayman Narayana Health
University, which will include 200 beds, will be staffed by 800 employees, with
160 being Caymanian.
The tertiary-care hospital, which
will be built in three or four phases, will cater primarily to American
patients travelling to Cayman for cardiology, orthopaedic, cancer and major
general surgical procedures. All its senior surgeons and medical staff will be
recruited initially from the United States, Shetty said.
The heart surgeon said the
Cayman-based hospital would offer healthcare to Americans at 60 per cent less
than the cost they would pay in the US.
The location of the hospital was
not revealed, although Shetty said he was looking at a shortlist of locations
and a decision on where it would be built would be made in the next few days.
“It does not really matter where on
the Island we locate the hospital because most of the patients will be coming
from the airport,” he said.
Premier McKeeva Bush and Shetty
signed an agreement at a press conference on Wednesday – a deal that will
facilitate the establishment of the hospital, and which includes duty concessions
on equipment and supplies, but not on construction, and discounts on work
Details of the agreement, which
Cabinet green-lit on Tuesday, and an economic impact assessment done by international
consultancy firm Grant Thornton, have not been made public, but officials said
both would eventually be released.
The government has harkened the
medical tourism project as the dawn of a third pillar in Cayman’s economy,
along with the financial services and leisure tourism.
Mr. Bush said the project would mean
more housing construction, business registrations, food and beverage sales,
ground transportation, small businesses, hotel occupancy, air transport and
jobs for Cayman.
“The investors have the funds, they
have the confidence in us, they will have to ensure that everything done is to
ensure their investment is protected. On our part, our officials must ensure
the Cayman Islands gain on all fronts,” Mr. Bush said.
With 2,000 beds at the hospital,
the issue of medical waste will also have to addressed and member of the
Legislative Assembly, Cline Glidden said the government was looking at a
“holistic” approach to the overall waste problem on the Island, saying an announcement
would be made “relatively soon”.
The model for a large medical
tourism hospital in Cayman is based on a successful one Shetty has built in his
hospitals in India where high-volume, low-cost heart surgeries and cancer
treatments are available.
He said this model could work in
Cayman, despite its high cost of living, because it is competing with the “unrealistic”
cost of healthcare in America.
“The perception of cost of healthcare
in this part of the world is distorted by the cost of healthcare in America.
The cost of healthcare in America is unrealistic. We don’t look at that model;
we don’t look at the cost structure. We look at the output,” he said, adding
that the hospital and its equipment would be Joint Commission International
accredited. JCI is the agency that accredits US hospitals.
Health minister Mark Scotland said
the new hospital would make services and treatments now sought by Caymanians in
US and other overseas hospitals available on Island.
The Cayman government spends an
average of more than $1 million a month on overseas medical care for indigent
members of the population due to a lack of insurance or under-insurance, Mr.
Scotland said. “It is shocking to think how much of our healthcare dollars are
being spent offshore,” he said.
He insisted the new hospital would
not replace primary health care facilities at the private Chrissie Tomlinson
Memorial Hospital and the government’s Cayman Islands Hospital. “Rather it will
partner with them to achieve the greatest level of healthcare access at the
most economic cost,” he said.
He said both local hospitals could
refer cancer patients, for example, to the Cayman Narayana Health University,
instead of sending them off Island.
Cayman’s proximity to the United
States makes it an attractive medical tourism option. With recent amendments to
healthcare legislation in the United States, millions more Americans will have
access to medical care there, but are likely to have to endure a long wait
before being treated, Shetty said.
He said those reforms in medical
healthcare in the US meant an opportunity for medical tourism in Cayman, saying
US healthcare is a $2.5 trillion industry, but 30 per cent of its population
was not covered.
“There is a serious problem out
there. Mr [Barack] Obama, with his honourable intentions has brought about
great reforms that will touch the lives of millions and millions of people, but
it is going to build a waiting list. Today, people who are not entitled, soon
when they enter a hospital in the US… will be told ‘Yes, sir, you are
entitled to a bypass but take your seat and wait for six months. No one would like
to wait for six months for a heart operation, and this is an opportunity for
the Cayman Islands,” he said.
He said his group, which consists
mostly of doctors, had received quotes from eight countries in the Caribbean region,
but he had opted for Cayman because he foresaw “in the next one or two decades,
Cayman Islands will be the only country in the world which will have great
political stability which will be important to safeguard out interest”.
Following a recent story about the
proposed project in the Wall Street Journal, he said he received 600
applications from American surgeons, doctors and nurses.
He said Caymanians would benefit
from the project by having a “world-class healthcare destination in your own
country” and by having a medical university on island where young Caymanians
could be educated and trained as medical professionals.
Mr. Bush and his colleagues visited
Shetty’s latest medical facility, a cancer hospital in Bangalore, in December. That
500,000 square foot facility has 1,500 beds and is the largest of its kind in