The majority of Caymanians working on the construction of Health City Cayman Islands would not have jobs, if the usual requirements for employment on construction sites were followed, according to developer Gene Thompson.
“I erased a couple of rules. You can come and work on my site without any police clearance. And we will not do random drug tests before you come to work or onsite,” he said, speaking at a luncheon organised by the Cayman Islands Society of Professional Accountants at The Ritz-Carlton on Friday, 12 July.
When the developers signed a memorandum of understanding with government about the project three years ago, it included a clause that Health City Cayman Islands would provide opportunities for Caymanians.
Mr. Thompson is the local partner in Dr. Devi Shetty’s hospital development.
Last week, 174 of the 242 workers at the Health City construction site in East End were Caymanian. Since the start of the development, the share of Caymanian workers fluctuated between 62 and 76 per cent as the number of employees increased.
“Interestingly enough, if I had to implement those rules [on drug testing and requiring a police clearance], the percentages would probably be reversed at best,” Mr. Thompson said.
Each of the 26 contractors on the site is Caymanian and every single heavy equipment operator is an independent, so that the economic benefit is not concentrated on only one company.
Mr. Thompson said he is proud of the large number of Caymanians he employs, and as a firm believer in giving people a second chance, this faith is being rewarded.
“We are two and a half weeks ahead of schedule and on budget, using Caymanians,” he said.
Three of his workers are even wearing electronic monitoring devices.
“I have three guys on my site that are wearing ankle bracelets, and they were not bought from Magnum Jewellers, let’s put it that way,” he said. “And you know what, those guys are performing.”
He noted that most of the workers on the project would not have been offered a job under the usual rules on construction sites. And without their jobs, they would have no other option.
“And I am not a nationalistic person, please understand that. I am as much of a free-marketeer as you can get, but I also believe in creating opportunities. So this has worked out well.”
He said for Cayman Health City to be successful, Caymanians have to be a big part of it.
Going forward, Health City Cayman Islands wants to focus on providing opportunities for Caymanians in the healthcare industry. Currently, about 40 per cent of the 1,500 people employed in the healthcare industry are Caymanian.
Increasing this number will take time, Mr. Thompson said, pointing out that it takes about 13 years to become a specialist doctor of the kind that Health City Cayman Islands, a tertiary care clinic, will employ.
The training to qualify as a nurse takes four years.
Initially in 2014, when it is scheduled to begin operating, the hospital is anticipated to employ three Caymanian doctors, six nurses and some paramedical staff, making up a quarter of the anticipated 160 staff.
By 2016 the number of Caymanians will be larger, but their share of the total workforce will be smaller. It will be 2021 before the picture changes, Mr. Thompson said, because by then the education facilities will have been up and running and the project will also be entrenched in a schools programme.
“We are going to take our time and are going to develop it,” he said. “We want Caymanians to have another opportunity than the financial or the tourism industry.”
Ultimately, by 2028, Mr. Thompson believes, between a quarter and 30 per cent of a projected workforce of 10,000 people will be Caymanian.