No drug testing, no police clearance, no problem!

Shetty hospital construction April 2013 Lead

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.  


Healthcare jobs 

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. 

Gene Thompson CISPA

Gene Thompson speaking at the CISPA luncheon on 12 July.
– Photographer: Michael Klein

Gene Thompson Update

Gene Thompson speaking at the CISPA luncheon on 12 July.
– Photographer: Michael Klein

Shetty hospital construction April 2013

Construction workers at Health City Cayman Islands, pictured here in April 2013, are not subject to drug tests or police background checks.


  1. Hard to imagine anyone from overseas looking to build or invest here is gonna be happy that to get a workforce in place one must eschew drug tests and police clearance.

  2. No one can say this man doesn’t have vision. Hopefully everyone involved will take full advantage of the opportunities created here, I am happy to hear that he is willing to give people second chances, but the fact that this is an issue should open young people’s eyes as to the need to keep their noses clean.

    Health City Cayman is sure to play a major role in making Caymans future much brighter as a third leg to the local economy.

    We should all be thankful to the people that played a role in making this happen..

  3. So this policy is for all workers? As a none drug user nor a convicted felon I would find that this policy is in the making for a very hostile and unsafe working environment. There are reasons for drug testing and for police clearance. I believe in giving people a second chance but without checking a police record how do you know what or who you are dealing with…perhaps its a person with a violent temper that if the wrong buttons are pushed will snap and possibly injure someone. What if someone shows up to work on drugs and injures someone or worse. What if a person on drugs makes poor decisions with a critical part of construction…this all seems like a really bad idea.

  4. I think this is a great opportunity that Mr Gene Thompson is giving to the Caymanian construction workers. The fact remains that at least 75% of construction workers smoke pot, and they are not Caymanians, yet they are employed. Many Caymanian men have smoked pot in their earlier days and after a time they just gave it up. I believe this contributed to them obtaining a better life with a home car and a family. If you listen to the younger generation who speak and smoke pot, they will always say, yes I want a job, but can’t get one because I smoke little bit weed. So they mostly will go fishing or sell fruits. I believe that if these men are counseled and given an opportunity in life they will do right thing. Many young men who have used weed in the past are now big time jewelers, Bank managers, Hotel managers, Business owners and even police officers. I believe that we should still endeavor to teach them in a good way, the dangerous of drugs, and at the same time offering them a hand to make something of themselves, like Mr Thompson is doing.

  5. I attempted this policy before, but, the employee which I wanted to help stole my safe, probably to pay for his drug habit. No chances that i will do it again.

  6. Thank you Mr. Thompson! This is after all Cayman! Small island, most people know everyone else here. I am sure that supervisors are paying attention to employees. At least, give a person a chance. As for the accidents waiting to happen? About the same clouded judgement as someone who had been drinking the night before (or the morning/afternoon) which probably totals 3/4 of any work site based on the amount of alcohol sold on this island! We expect a lot but don’t give up much! Should be nominated for Employer of the Year, just for giving people who want to work a chance to work! You know who we are, didn’t show up with any false documents from any country where 100 people have the same name! Who knows who they are??? Again, Thank You Mr. Thompson for having a little faith in your people.

  7. OK, I can see relaxing the critera may give someone a chance to GET the job, and well done for that policy!

    But it seems foolish to waive the drug testing once they have the job. I understand there can be practical issues in respect of someone testing positive for a few weeks after quitting.

    If there is a serious injury or fatality then the lawyers will simply argue that the site was in contravention of existing custom and practice which is much easier than trying to prove if negligence by any specific individual was wholly or partially to blame.

    Construction work is usually ranked in the top 10 most dangerous jobs and aerial work (working at heights – e.g. above 4 storeys, on scaffolding or on roofs) is usually 6 or 5 (not far behind those Alaskan fisherman!).

    The grim truth is that with around 250 construction workers the odds of a fatal accident is between 1 in 10 and 1 in 20 for any given year (based on US data).

    So is a lax policy on Drug and Alcohol use really doing them a favour or, is it showing a reckless disregard for the safety and well-being of the workers and their colleagues?

    I hope the policy has not been waived for heavy equipment operators or those who drive trucks or plant on public roads!

    Also, a strong / well enforced policy would be an incentive for someone to clean up their act AND once the job is over could be used to SHOW the next prospective employer that prior transgressions really are a thing of the past.

  8. I really believe that a man high up on alcohol will fall off a building quicker than a man smoking weed.
    Ever seen a drunk man waking straight. No. Ever seen a man who smoke weed stumble. No. Ever listen to a drunk man talk talk talk without an end. Yes Ever heard a weed man talk talk talk. No.

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