The ribbon has been cut, the plaque unveiled, and the doors of Health City Cayman Islands are open to await its first patients.
Now comes the time for Health City Cayman Islands to demonstrate if the health city model Dr. Devi Shetty began in Bangalore, India, can be successfully recreated in the western world.
On March 10, Health City Cayman Islands will welcome its first patient, possibly charitable, and will mark the day that the facility becomes operational. Soon after, a steady flow of both charitable and paying patients is expected to commence. The lucrative U.S. market is hoped to be broken into once the facility receives accreditation from the Joint Commission International, a marker for quality and safety in the global healthcare community.
The developers say the paying patients, as well as low overheads due to Health City’s sustainable buildings and methods, should make the facility “cash flow positive” within six months.
Speakers at the opening ceremony lauded the facility and its creators.
Leader of the Opposition McKeeva Bush, who was premier of the Cayman Islands when the wheels were put in motion to begin the project, indicated the 107,000 square foot structure behind him as he spoke at the opening of the facility Tuesday, saying “The future is that building,” and alluded to the “social, economic and political” ripple effects it would have.
The total direct impact in terms of salaries, jobs and total duties is expected to be more than a billion dollars, in addition to the indirect benefits from transportation, recreation and other industry developments related to the hospital.
A 2009 Grant Thornton economic impact study estimated this indirect impact revenue to be in the tens of millions after just a few years.
A medical team of 17 doctors from Dr. Shetty’s Health City Bangalore will initially staff the center in Cayman and lead the 30 percent of staff who are already in place. By the end of March, the remaining recruitment for the facility is hoped to be complete.
Local partner and project director Gene Thompson spoke of the dedicated efforts to create employment for Caymanians through the venture, with an average of 64 percent of the workers on the construction site being Caymanian. Mr. Thompson hopes this high level of local involvement will continue into the future, saying he “crave(s) the day that 64 percent of the staff are Caymanian and further crave(s) the day that 64 percent of the staff are trained here.”
If all of the proposals come to fruition, Mr. Thompson’s desire may not be so farfetched. To build on the medical interest that Health City has kindled in Cayman, a university catering to up to 3,000 students is planned. This will complement the BSc in Nursing that was implemented at the University College of the Cayman Islands last year, said Health Minister Osbourne Bodden at the opening ceremony, adding that he hoped further courses and enhancements to the curriculum in schools would enable Caymanians to take advantage of new opportunities.
Later this year, the planned expansion will begin as ground is again broken, with a hotel and residences rising from the rubble to accommodate the proposed influx of patients. Next year, phase 2 of the hospital – a 300-bed unit – will begin, allowing the facility to expand its specialties into neurology and oncology, and culminating in a 2,000-bed super-hospital at the end of 15 years of continued development.
Accompanying these plans will be a 1,500-bed assisted living facility for those who can no longer afford U.S. healthcare costs, as well as a commercial park.
The path to Health City
The creation of Health City Cayman Islands, from conception to the fruition of the first phase, has been a rapid process.
It was only in 2009 that the idea for a health city in Cayman was first mentioned and, a little less than five years later, the first patients will soon be taking up beds in its wards.
Local businessman Harry Chandi became acquainted with Dr. Shetty after the philanthropist and surgeon performed heart surgery on his father. A friendship formed, and Dr. Shetty and his endeavors overseas came to mind when Mr. Chandi’s business partner, local developer Mr. Thompson, was approached by then-premier McKeeva Bush in 2009.
The world was in the midst of a financial crisis, and Mr. Bush was looking for ways to insulate Cayman in the troubling economic times. The twin pillars of Cayman’s economy – tourism and finance – were particularly vulnerable and diversification was necessary, he felt.
Dr. Shetty hails from Karnataka, India, and trained in cardiac surgery at Guy’s Hospital in London before returning to India. His resume boasts the lofty title of personal physician to Mother Teresa and the media has labeled him as “The Poor Man’s God” and “A Cardiac Surgeon with a Heart” due to his philanthropic pursuits. Before he had even conceived of a connection with the Cayman Islands, Dr. Shetty had already been busy in his native India, founding Narayana Health, a complex of private health centers acclaimed for their innovative model of healthcare delivery. These hospitals are multi-specialty and offer high quality medical care at low cost due to economies of scale.
Mr. Chandi and Mr. Thompson contacted Dr. Shetty, and two months later he set foot in Cayman for the first time to discuss the possibility of recreating his health city model in Cayman, initially providing cardiac surgery, cardiology and orthopedics. By the following month, this possibility became a reality as a memorandum of understanding was signed with the government of the Cayman Islands, with a formal agreement quickly following in April of the next year.
The design phase commenced, and preliminary work on the 107,000 square foot site began in late 2012.
Earlier that year, Shetty’s Narayana Health had been joined on the project by Ascension, the largest private nonprofit healthcare organization in the United States, which has similar ideals to Dr. Shetty, in that it aims to deliver a high quality of care to all, especially the poor and vulnerable.