Government says it won’t get into ‘medical tourism’

Although it has been granted the legal designation to participate in “medical tourism,” the government has no intention of going into that business, public health officials said Wednesday.

Health Services Authority Chief Executive Lizzette Yearwood confirmed to the Legislative Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee that it had applied to be registered as a medical tourism facility – the same as a number of other private healthcare operations in the islands had done – since the designation was created to accommodate Health City Cayman Islands.

Ms. Yearwood said this was done on the HSA’s behalf because it did “not want to be restricted” in treating a person who came to the islands solely to seek medical services. In such a case, any facility providing those services would require a legal designation as a medical tourism facility.

“It’s just to be able to enable us to do charity work if that need arises,” Ms. Yearwood said. “It’s not part of our business strategy going forward.”

The Health Services Authority has turned a small “profit,” according to government accounting rules, for the past several years but it is not a “for profit” operation.

For instance, in the 2013/14 HSA budget, which was reviewed by the Public Accounts Committee on Wednesday, the authority reported $96.4 million in total revenues against $92.8 million in total expenses.

However, about $14.5 million in the agency’s revenues “came from government” in the form of what is termed an “equity injection” for the year, the auditor general’s office reported.

The cash injection given to a number of government entities is termed a “subsidy” by government economists, but public sector accountants view this as a payment for services the entity provides.