Commentary/Letter to the Editor

Top Cardiologist urges action for Medical Tourism

A top cardiologist in The Bahamas said the Government must play a leadership role in developing cutting-edge medical tourism, or let a multi-million dollar industry slip away from The Bahamas.

Dr. Conville Brown, a lead cardiologist, who performed Bahamas’s first stem cell operation in the latter quarter of 2012, said, if The Bahamas is going to become a hub for medical tourism, individuals must step up and make it a priority before other justifications capitalize on these opportunities.

Brown was reported to have said: "I am prepared to say that it is quite a lucrative and productive market, but it depends how we position ourselves." He added: "The Government needs to determine where it wants to stand. They can exclude and impede, or incentivize and promote. The Bahamas will either thrive or flounder. And so far, I don’t think we are thriving."

Okanos Heart Institute, for example, is awaiting final approvals and investing $5 million into a clinic in Grand Bahama. The clinic has taken up the second and third floor of a commercial building and hired well-known physicians from the U.S. to perform treatments.

Indian Cardiologist Dr. Devi Shetty, develop of the Shetty Hospital project in the Cayman Islands, broke ground in August 2012 allowing for site preparation works. This was 16-months after signing an agreement with the Cayman Islands Government to set up a medical tourism hospital in Grand Cayman.

In November they presented their mixed-use planning application for the first phase of a proposed medical tourism facility to Cayman Islands Planning Department officials. Full site work will begin once the planning application has been approved.

The first phase of the project is being erected on 50 acres of land. The area is part of a total 200 acres the developers purchased in 2011 to build a proposed 2000-bed hospital and supporting facilities to be built during the next 15-years which will include assisted-living homes, a biotech research centre and a medical education facility.

The first phase of the project is the creation of a 140—bed tertiary care hospital to be operational in early 2014.

In April 2012, Dr. Shetty partnered with of the United States’ largest non-profit healthcare companies, Ascension Health Alliance, to build and manage the proposed hospital. Ascension would provide facilities planning, supply chain management, and biomedical engineering services, while Dr. Shetty’s group will run the hospital.

How far is Sint Maarten with its medical tourism plans? Within the past 30 months, interests have been shown by two parties, however plans with one particular investor have moved to an advanced stage. We are now in a New Year and 30-months later, and we should move forward with this development that would further diversify our one-pillar tourism economy and create opportunities for the country.

As Cardiologist Brown said, don’t let a multi-million dollar industry slip away from the country.

Roddy Heyliger