Hundreds of dignitaries gathered to hail the birth of a “third pillar” of Cayman’s economy and a new model for global healthcare at the official opening of Health City Cayman Islands on Tuesday.
The hospital will accept its first patients – most likely charitable cases – on March 10. Demand is expected to ramp up from that point, with directors hoping a steady flow of paying patients, initially from the Caribbean region, will make the facility “cash flow positive” within six months.
Dr. Devi Shetty, the Indian philanthropist and surgeon behind Health City, said his vision is for the Cayman Islands to pioneer a new type of healthcare delivery that will be the “textbook for other countries to follow.”
He said, “Our intention is building the hospital of the future. A hospital that will not be compared with the best hospitals of U.K. or Europe but will be considered as the best hospital on the planet and will lay the standard for all the other hospitals to follow.”
Addressing an appreciative crowd assembled under tent canopies on the parking lot of the new hospital, Dr. Shetty said the gleaming 140-bed facility in the background is just the beginning.
Work is expected to begin later this year on a hotel and residences, while phase two of the project – a 300-bed unit that will expand the hospital’s specialties into neurology and oncology – is scheduled to begin in late 2015.
A university and an assisted living center, aimed at baby boomers who can no longer afford U.S. healthcare costs, are also planned.
Dr. Shetty said, “Our desire is to build a 2,000-bed health city and a medical university that will become a beacon of medical education for the world.”
The hospital plans to offer world-class healthcare at lower prices, partly by using technology to leverage its links with Dr. Shetty’s original Health City complex in Bangalore, India.
The medical team at Health City Cayman Islands will initially be led by 17 doctors from the Indian hospital. Consultant specialists and nurses from Health City Bangalore will be available around the clock to patients in Cayman, through remote technology.
Samir Mitra, CEO of iKare, the Silicon Valley tech firm associated with Health City, said the hospital will feature an iPad on every bed and will use its own range of apps to deliver care more efficiently.
Premier Alden McLaughlin was one of several politicians to hail the opening of the hospital and the arrival of medical tourism in the Cayman Islands as an economic pillar to supplement tourism and financial services.
“This is one of those transformative moments for Cayman,” he said, “as was the case when the first sea plane landed in the North Sound in the 1940s and when we passed the first Banks and Trust Companies Law in 1966.”
McKeeva Bush, who was premier when the Health City project first got started, said it was gratifying to see the hospital completed, despite the opposition his administration received at the time.
“Medical tourism has arrived, even though they said we were fools,” he said.
Politicians on all sides expressed determination to improve and diversify the territory’s educational offering to ensure Caymanians have every chance to take advantage of the career opportunities the development would bring.
Dr. Shetty said he shared that vision.
“I have a dream that ten years from now, when you Google the best heart surgeon in the world, it will be a Caymanian working in this hospital.
“I have a dream that in the future, when you Google the best heart hospital in the world, it will be Health City Cayman Islands,” he said.
Project director Gene Thompson said 2,000 schoolchildren had visited the finished hospital over the past week and 300 had expressed a desire to work in the medical field.
He said 64 percent of the workers who had built the hospital were Caymanian and added, “I crave the day when I can say 64 percent of the staff running Health City are Caymanian.”
Speaking after the ribbon-cutting ceremony, performed by eight-year-old Leonisha Lofters who underwent a heart transplant at Dr. Shetty’s hospital in Bangalore, Mr. Thompson said the real work was just beginning.
He said hospital staff would be sifting through a list of prospective patients supplied by charitable organizations this week. The aim is for the first patient to come through the doors on March 10. Paying customers are expected to follow shortly after.
Around 30 percent of the staff for the facility have been recruited so far with the full complement likely to be in place by the end of March.
Patients are initially expected to come from the Caribbean region, with many of them charity cases, as directors await official accreditation to open up the more lucrative U.S. market – a process that will take several months.
Mr. Thompson expects demand to ramp up slowly and believes the hospital will be “cash flow positive” within six months.
September 2009: Dr. Devi Shetty visits Cayman for the first time and meets with key government officials to discuss the possibility of building a 2,000 bed multi-specialty hospital in Cayman
October 2009: A memorandum of understanding is signed between the Cayman Islands government and Dr. Shetty with regard to the building of Health City Cayman Islands
December 2009: McKeeva Bush, then premier of the Cayman Islands, travels to Bangalore, India, for the inauguration of a multi-specialty hospital
April 2010: Partnership meetings are held at Narayana Health City Bangalore with Ascension senior leadership. The government of the Cayman Islands signs an agreement with Narayana Health
April 2010 – November 2011: Work is under way between Narayana Health and the government to implement necessary legislation
October 2011: Land at High Rock in East End is purchased for the construction of the hospital
February 2012: Initial designs and plans for the hospital are completed
April 2012: The partnership between Narayana Health and Ascension Health Alliance is announced
July 2012: Access to the project site is established
August 2012: Groundbreaking ceremony takes place, attended by dignitaries and hundreds of guests
December 2012: Phase 1 planning approval is obtained
January 2013: Cayman’s first ever Planned Area Development approval is granted for the 50-acre master plan
February 14, 2013: Construction begins
February 14, 2014: Key handover ceremony takes place
February 21, 2014: Health City Cayman Islands hosts “open house” for public viewing
February 25, 2014: Grand opening