Health City Cayman Islands local partner Gene Thompson said this week that the East End medical tourism facility is not competing with local health services “for the most part,” even though there is no specific prohibition against it.
Mr. Thompson’s comments were made following statements by the government hospital’s chief doctor that Health City seemed to have an unfair advantage over other local private sector providers.
“Health City does not have any specific clause in our contract that precludes us from providing any healthcare services,” Mr. Thompson said Wednesday. “That being stated our focus is mainly on super speciality tertiary healthcare that isn’t provided on island.”
Mr. Thompson said Health City’s focus is and will continue to be on medical tourism, aimed at bringing health services to the Caribbean as well as North and South America. However, the hospital is also able to provide high-quality care in certain specialized areas of medicine that do not currently exist in Cayman, he said.
“This is due to the majority of our services being within the cardiac realm, as well as within the realm of high-end orthopedics,” Mr. Thompson said.
“Due to the demand from our international patients we are offering services such as GI [gastrointestinal], bariatric, neurosurgery and spine surgery. We had originally requested HSA to provide some of these supporting services, however it was refused.”
At the moment, Mr. Thompson said the government Health Services Authority and the government insurance company, CINICO, will refer cases to Health City that the government hospital “cannot handle.” An example of this type of referral is cardiac care cases, especially in cases of emergency where it is easier, and in most cases less costly, than sending someone off island for care.
“Over 400 locals didn’t have to go overseas for care” since Health City opened in early 2014, Mr. Thompson said, adding that 70 of those cases involved cardiac emergencies.
“That’s 70 persons who have had their lives saved [at Health City],” Mr. Thompson said. ”One of our goals is to help increase the quality of life for locals and to help save lives that otherwise wouldn’t have been saved if we weren’t present.”
HSA Medical Director Dr. Delroy Jefferson told the Legislative Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee last month that, while the level of medical services at Health City seemed quite good, he was concerned that the medical tourism hospital had been given certain concessions that other private sector doctors in Cayman had not, as part of the agreement it signed with the government.
The accounts committee was reviewing a 2015 auditor general’s office report that alleged government “acted unlawfully” in negotiating two major land deals – one of which involved Health City. The auditors concluded that the former United Democratic Party government committed “tens of millions” of dollars in concessions for the Health City project without adequately researching the potential costs involved.
Dr. Jefferson told the committee that in his view, the duty concessions in the government’s contract with Health City were fine if the facility’s purpose was to provide “medical tourism,” a service which did not exist prior to the hospital’s opening in February 2014. However, Dr. Jefferson noted that the hospital appeared, at least in some cases, to be competing with local doctors for patients.
“There is a fear that it is going to hurt the local providers who have not benefited from the same [duty] concessions,” Dr. Jefferson said.
Although it is not suggested by auditors that Health City or its beneficial owners acted unlawfully in any way as part of those negotiations, Mr. Thompson said he rejects any assertion made that the agreement between government and Health City itself was unlawful.
“Health City Cayman Islands is fully compliant with our agreement with the Cayman Islands government and we would contest that information, provided in parliament was inaccurate and baseless,” Mr. Thompson said.
“I would like to point out that the agreement was reviewed and signed off by both the attorney general and the governor.”
It its first two years of operations, Mr. Thompson said Health City has seen a significant growth in overseas patients, but noted that most medical tourism facilities around the world tend to expand locally before reaching into overseas markets.
“We are demonstrating this growth at Health City where, initially, we only had 5 percent of non-Caymanian outpatients in the first six months, whereas now we are close to 40 percent for the last two months,” he said.
Mr. Thompson also said the hospital had 50 regional and international contracts for health services signed as the Health City brand “solidified.”
The Health City operation has received Joint Commission Accreditation, which measures patient care standards. It is the first hospital in Cayman and the second in the Caribbean to receive that designation, Mr. Thompson said.
The hospital measures its overall economic impact on Cayman to date at more than US$27 million. This is mostly inclusive of US$20 million in items like utilities, housing, transportation and other spending by the hospital and its workers. An additional US$1 million is factored in for things like travel, accommodation and leisure spending by medical patients and their families.
The Health City facility has spent about US$3 million on fees to the Cayman Islands government in its first three years.
“We are on track and making inroads in medical tourism,” Mr. Thompson said. “Our brand is strong in the Caribbean and now we are moving into the other markets, as can be evidenced by our recent opening of the Health City Canadian office. Medical tourism has been tried by many Caribbean nations, however, we stand alone in regards to what we have achieved in our first two years.”