Developers of the Shetty medical tourism hospital announced Tuesday they planned to build it on a site earmarked for the East End sea port, which appears to have been scrapped.
In a joint statement, Gene Thompson, local director of the Narayana group which proposes building the 2,000-bed hospital, and Joseph Imparato, owner of the land, said an agreement had been reached to locate Dr. Devi Shetty’s health care city on 600 acres at High Rock.
That site had been considered as a location for a sea port in East End, but Mr. Imparato said that project had “increasingly [become] the target of considerable political and popular opposition” and that it was no longer “politically feasible” to continue with his plans for the sea port, which some opponents claimed was an excuse to dig a quarry.
David Legge, the local spokesman for the project, said the deal was a “land purchase agreement”, but no information was released on how much had been paid for the land to house the hospital and its associated facilities, which is officially called the Narayana Cayman University Medical Centre.
Premier McKeeva Bush said he welcomed the announcement. “I believe that the advent of the Shetty hospital bodes well. It is one of the most significant to happen in this country for years. Caymanians will be able to get tertiary level care here.”
He added: “I believe that site is one of the best sites available on the island and I congratulate them.”
Mr. Bush said there had been opposition to the sea port, which he said would have generated revenue for Cayman. “It did not get the support to go there [in East End] … If it did not go there, it might not go anywhere,” he said.
Asked what arrangements had been made for road access to the hospital, Mr. Bush said the government intended to go ahead as planned to build an east-west corridor from George Town to East End once Cayman had the money to do so, but “not right now”. He added that the developers of the Shetty hospital would have to pay for and build its own feeder roads to the site, just like any other developer.
Mr. Thompson said no new road would be required in the short- to mid-term future.
The $2 billion medical centre is slated to be built in stages during the next 15 years, with the first phase consisting of 140 beds.
Earlier this year, Mr. Thompson said Dr. Shetty had been considering seven different sites for the project, but that the High Rock location was the Indian cardiologist’s preferred site.
According to Tuesday’s statement, discussions between the Narayana Group and Mr. Imparato had been going on for more than a year.
As recently as June, Mr. Imparato held a public meeting about the project, which involved building a 1,500-acre sea port at High Rock, east of Half Moon Bay.
Captain Bryan Ebanks, who spearheaded a petition campaign, called Save Cayman, to oppose dredging in the North Sound and who has also opposed the East End sea port proposal, said dumping the sea port plan was a good idea. “I think it is obvious they came to their senses and heeded the people’s calls … I believe that if we were not as vigilant as we were, [the sea port] would have become a reality.”
However, he also has concerns about the Shetty hospital and said he found it worrisome that the laws of Cayman had been changed on the request of Dr. Shetty, saying it would set a precedent for future investors and developers.
The Cayman Islands government passed a number of laws to help pave the way for the establishment of the hospital, including the Health Practice Law, which enables medical staff trained in India and other overseas countries to practise in Cayman; the Tax Concessions (Amendment) Law, which exempts companies from potential future taxes; and the Medical Negligence (Non-Economic Damages) (Amendment) Law, which caps pain and suffering damages awarded in medical malpractice cases to $500,000.
A final piece of legislation, which will allow human organ and tissue donations and transplants to be done in Cayman, is being drafted and is expected to be tabled later this year.
The developers of the hospital say the High Rock site is an ideal one for the project as it is on one of the highest points on the island, offering natural protection against flooding from storms. The site is also big enough to allow for future expansion for the hospital and its related infrastructure needs, the developers said.
“Also, because of the site’s close proximity to deep cold seawater, engineers, if feasible, will employ a simple and environmentally friendly air conditioning technology called a Seawater Air Conditioning System for the complex. The technology will enable energy savings approaching 70 per cent compared to conventional AC systems, a significant savings, since more than half of the costs of operating a hospital in a warm climate is attributable to air conditioning,” the statement read.
Mr. Imparato said he still firmly believed in the concept of a sea port in East End and that eventually the cargo facilities in downtown George Town will have to be relocated, which unlike his “cost-free option, will be terribly expensive for the Caymanian people”.
“Nevertheless, Gene Thompson, his partner Harry Chandi, Premier McKeeva Bush and others have done great work to advance Dr. Shetty’s vision for a health care city in the Cayman Islands,” Mr. Imparato said.
According to Mr. Thompson, work on the hospital site will begin later this year. “In all instances,” he said, “Caymanians will be given preferential opportunities during the construction phase and also in educational, training and career opportunities as the project moves forward.”
The medical tourism facility, which will be built during the next 15 years, include a tertiary-care hospital, an educational facility, a biotech park, and an assisted living community.