Dr. Devi Shetty, his partners and local politicians broke ground at the new medical tourism centre on Monday to mark the start of construction at the East End site.
Before an audience of hundreds of invited guests, Dr. Shetty gave an overview of what he expected his proposed lower-cost, high quality hospital in Grand Cayman to deliver, saying his aim was for the facility not to be known as the cheapest hospital, but as the “safest hospital in this part of the world”.
Explaining that his job as a heart surgeon means he puts a price on human life every day, Dr. Shetty said he sees between 60 and 80 children a day in his office and has to tell their mothers how much an operation to repair a hole in the heart would cost – about $800, and if they cannot pay that, it means the difference between life and death for the patient.
He said patients all over the world faced the same situation. “Only 10 per cent of the world’s population can afford so-called tertiary health care and America and Europe is not an exception. The cost of health care has become a big issue everywhere. How long [will] this drama go on? Someone has to stop it.”
He said Cayman’s politicians, in facilitating the Shetty hospital to be built here, were creating an opportunity to “stop this calamity”.
Part of creating one of the world’s safest hospitals would be embracing technology, the Indian cardiologist said, citing the safety record of hospitals run by his US-based partner Ascension Health Alliance and a plan to make the new hospital a paperless facility, using iPads instead. “A paper does not tell you if you are writing something wrong, but an iPad will smack your hand and tell you it’s not right,” Dr. Shetty said.
Among the innovations that the hospital would bring is remote monitoring of intensive care patients by internists in India, who due to the time zone difference between India and Cayman, would be working while it is nighttime in Cayman, when local internists would not normally be working.
“We believe that within five years, software will make smarter diagnoses than doctors. We believe within 10 years, it will become legally mandatory for every doctor to get a second opinion from software before starting treatment,” said Dr. Shetty, adding that he anticipated that this would happen even earlier in his hospital.
The surgeon said Cayman was famous for scuba diving. “Soon when somebody gets a chest pain or when their joints start creaking, they’ll think about the Cayman Islands,” he said.
Master of ceremonies at the event, David Legge, described the US$2 billion hospital project, once completed, as the “largest private sector undertaking in the history of these islands”.
The first phase of the project, known officially as Health City Cayman Islands, is the construction of a 140-bed tertiary care hospital, which is scheduled to be operational in November next year. According to the developers, once the entire hospital is complete in 15 years, it will house 2,000 beds. The hospital is based in the High Rock area of the District of East End in Grand Cayman, with its entrance opposite the western end of Lovers Wall.
Ascension Health Alliance will provide facilities planning, supply chain management and biomedical engineering services, while Dr. Shetty’s group will run the hospital.
More than 200 construction jobs will be created to build the first phase of the hospital with another 300 jobs being created when the hospital opens in November 2013, Cayman Islands Premier McKeeva Bush said.
The premier said Monday’s groundbreaking not only marked the beginning of construction of the new hospital, but the advent of a new leg of the Cayman Islands’ economy – medical tourism. He added that the project, which he said would be the “envy of the Caribbean”, was a sign of confidence in the Cayman Islands from overseas investors.
“The Cayman Islands is the right place to come and invest. The Cayman Islands is the right place to come and start a bold new business. These islands are the right place to create a better way of doing things,” said Mr. Bush, adding that during the next 10 years, the Health City Cayman Islands would add more than $3 billion to Cayman’s gross domestic product.
He acknowledged that the project required the improvement of facilities at Owen Roberts International Airport in Grand Cayman, planning for which he said was under way, but which was already facing hurdles.
Mr. Bush and other speakers thanked local businessmen Gene Thompson and Harry Chandi as the driving forces behind the project.
While the main focus of the hospital is to attract medical tourists from the Caribbean, Latin America and the United States, the hospital’s facilities, which will include cancer treatment, open heart and bypass surgeries, organ transplants, angioplasty and orthopaedics, will also be available to local patients who may no longer need to travel off island for such treatments.
The premier pointed out that one of the biggest challenges he and his government faced in drawing up the latest budget, which faced delay and oversight by the United Kingdom’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office, was the cost of healthcare and sending patients overseas for medical care.