Medical tourism: A new Industry

The Cayman Islands government recently signed an historic agreement with world-renowned heart surgeon Dr. Devi Shetty to enable the establishment of a major hospital complex and medical school to serve both overseas and local patients.
Premier McKeeva Bush, Minister of Health Mark Scotland and Mr. Shetty signed the document 7 April, 2010 during a press conference announcing the project.
The proposed Narayana Cayman University Medical Center should break ground in January 2011 with the first phase, a 200-bed facility, opening for patients 18 months later.
The world-class Cayman facility is expected to establish the Island as a major centre for medical tourism in the Caribbean.
The hospital could bring hundreds of millions of dollars annually into the Cayman economy as well as create hundreds of new jobs.
Medical tourism is one of the world’s fastest growing new industries with countries embracing it to improve health care for their citizens, lower local costs for major surgeries and procedures and re-energise their economies. More than 50 countries have identified medical tourism as a national industry.
Premier Bush spoke of medical tourism and the facility as the third pillar of Cayman’s economy, together with financial services and holiday tourism. Emphasising the significance of the project, he added that the government will be offering duty concessions on medical equipment and supplies, and reduced work-permit fees.
The eventual 500-acre, 2,000-bed complex in Cayman is modelled on Mr. Shetty’s Narayana Hrudayalaya Health City in Bangalore, India, which comprises a 3,000-bed facility containing separate hospitals for cardiac, cancer and eye patients and a trauma and orthopaedic centre.
Mr. Shetty expects the Cayman facility to cost patients about 60 per cent less than identical surgeries in the US, pointing out that prices in that country are “unrealistic.”
Doctors at his hospitals in Bangalore are able to perform significantly more surgeries than their US counterparts, enabling cost savings due to higher volumes as well as much greater surgical experience at a much earlier point in their careers. Mr. Shetty says he stopped counting after performing 10,000-15,000 cardiac operations himself, while a typical cardiac surgeon in the US upon retirement would have performed anywhere from 2,000 to 3,000 surgeries.
At the press conference, Mr. Shetty spoke of his hope that one day, if he ever needed heart-bypass surgery, a Caymanian doctor who had been trained at the Narayana Cayman University Medical Center would perform the operation.
Mr. Shetty, who was Mother Teresa’s personal physician, is also known for his extensive charitable work. In a venture with various state governments in India, he founded Yeshasvini Micro Health Insurance, which in its first 20 months of operation enabled 85,000 farmers to receive free medical treatment, including 22,000 free surgeries.
He has also personally operated without charge on more than 5,000 children.