The Cayman Islands public healthcare system is bracing for rapidly increased demand over the next 20 years as chronic health problems in the islands get worse and aging health facilities become outdated.
The Health Services Authority recently put out bids for private sector interests to help it create a 20-year master plan as the “primary source of healthcare services to all residents in the Cayman Islands.”
“The master plan will serve as both a broad roadmap for steering future development within a context of aging infrastructure, a growing population and the prevalence of chronic illness driving a need for an increase in clinical services,” request for proposal documents released in late July stated.
Some of the figures in the documents that identify the potential for Cayman’s population growth and corresponding increases in illness are staggering. For instance, the bid records note that Cayman’s estimated population increased from about 38,400 in 1999 to 60,413 in 2015 – a 57 percent increase in 16 years.
Future population trends calculated in government-commissioned reports showed increases would continue, with the lowest calculated growth rate – about 2 percent per year – putting the islands’ population at 79,000 by 2026 and a 4 percent growth placing it at nearly 120,000.
As the population grew over the past decade, government analysts noted a rise in chronic disease reported to health authorities.
Between 2006 and 2016, government records indicate the total number of hypertension cases grew by 85 percent, diabetes by 65 percent, chronic lung disease by 86 percent and cancer cases by 126 percent.
The incidence of mental disorders in the islands grew by 67 percent.
In 2012, the government Ministry of Health predicted that by 2020, heart disease, cancer and diabetes would account for 60 percent of the illnesses in the Cayman Islands. At the time, the ministry noted that 37 percent of teenagers in the islands were classified as “overweight or obese” and were likely to face future health risks.
“Our national health systems will be severely stressed and there be will significant negative economic and social consequence,” the report noted.
In addition, a comprehensive review of the Cayman Islands health system completed last year by the auditor general’s office noted that chronic illness rates in the islands may be “masked” by a large influx of relatively young and relatively healthy work permit holders in the islands. These non-Caymanian workers, who cannot come to work here unless they are in relatively good health, could make reported percentages of chronic illness in the local population look smaller, auditors found.
Against this backdrop, the existing islands’ public health facilities – the Cayman Islands Hospital, Faith Hospital in Cayman Brac and the district health clinics – were all built between the 1970s and the 1990s, during a time when Cayman’s overall population was far less.
“The aging … infrastructure of [these] facilities have led to ongoing building performance and maintenance issues where major upgrading and/or replacement [is] required,” the bid documents state.
While two new health facilities have opened on Grand Cayman in recent years, including the 104-bed Health City Cayman Islands medical center, the Health Services Authority anticipates it will remain the “predominant healthcare provider” in the islands over the next two decades.
The successful bidder will create a master plan determining critical clinic service needs through 2026, the optimization of existing public healthcare facilities and the level of financial investment needed for public healthcare.
Bids for the health services master plan are due Sept. 8.