A Cayman Airways pilot is in discussions with health chiefs over his bid to establish the territory’s first on-island air ambulance service.
William Bodden, CEO of Cayman Islands MedEvac, says he has financial backing from investors in Grand Cayman and in the US.
Mr. Bodden is in the process of purchasing planes for the project, which he says would save insurance companies money and simplify the process of flying patients overseas for medical treatment. A series of flaws in the existing system were highlighted in a special public interest report from the auditor general last month.
Mr. Bodden held talks with government officials, insurance companies and health service chiefs last week and says he got the green light to go ahead with the business.
Cayman Islands Health Minister Osbourne Bodden confirmed that a meeting had been arranged and that there was potential interest in the concept. CINICO chief Lonny Tibbetts said officials had met with Mr. Bodden and indicated that the government insurance company would like to utilise a properly licensed, local air ambulance service, if and when it was established.
Ultimately, William Bodden hopes his firm will be the main provider of air ambulance services for the bulk of transfers from the Cayman Islands.
CINICO paid out slightly more than $800,000 for 71 medical evacuations during the financial year ending July 2012. That represents a fraction of the total number of evacuations with private insurance companies arranging their own transfers for seriously ill patients.
It is expected that the opening of Health City Cayman Islands, known locally as the Shetty Hospital, in East End and the advent of medical tourism in the Cayman Islands could increase demand further.
Under the existing system, air ambulance companies, largely based in Florida, bid for each evacuation in a mini-tender process and usually fly in from Miami to do the job.
William Bodden said, “Our main selling point is that we are going to be cheaper and more efficient. We will be based on island, so we will obviously be able to get the job done quicker.
“We will be a one-stop shop, so there will be no additional handling fees. We will have our own ground ambulances to provide transport to the airport.”
He said some parts of the business plan had been in place for some time, but he believes the change of government and the findings of the auditor general’s report have given the business new momentum.
“The current government is showing a bigger interest and I think we will get there. The investors need to see that it is sustainable,” he said.
Mr. Bodden, who has 17 years experience as a pilot, said his partners include a former trust fund administrator to run the business side. He plans to recruit flight medics and other staff with the aim of being ready to begin operating next year. He said his financial backers were 80 per cent Caymanian and 20 per cent US-based. The ultimate aim is to make the business 100 per cent Caymanian, providing jobs and training opportunities for locals, he said.
The firm also made a pitch to government to partner over additional land ambulance support in Bodden Town district, hoping that this would cut emergency response times in the area, but the liability issues involved made this proposal a non-starter.
Mr. Bodden said “phase one” of the business plan involved setting up base at Countryside Shopping Village in Savannah, with two land ambulances that would ultimately provide ground support to the air ambulances.