Planned hospital should raise country's rep in medical tourism

Planned hospital should raise country's rep in medical tourism

Friday, October 17, 2014

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The planned tourist hospital and related infrastructure should raise Jamaica's reputation as a medical tourism destination and hike foreign currency earnings, according to the US-based Medical Tourism Association.

It comes within the context of the island scoring high within the sub-ranking of a medical tourism report but sinking in the overall ranking.

"Greater investment in healthcare infrastructure and the marketing of such improvements including those at the new $170 million facility will improve the island's standing as a medical tourism destination," stated Renee-Marie Stephano, President of the Medical Tourism Association in a mailed response to Observer queries this week.

Stephano added that continued focus along with certifiable training and education for healthcare personnel will result in accreditation and more patients seeking medical procedures including "cosmetic, dental, orthopedic and other elective treatments in Jamaica".

The government marketing arm, JAMPRO last year reportedly signed a memorandum of understanding with a US developer to build a 'five-star' medical tourism facility costing over US$170 million. It forms part of efforts to tap into the global medical tourism industry valued at over US$40 billion. Jamaica sees some US$2 billion ($224 billion) in tourism expenditure annually.

"As these measures are achieved, more niche-specific accommodations will be required, leading to greater economic prosperity, more jobs, home-grown medical talent, and improved healthcare for both international and local populations," she added.

Jamaica ranked second to Costa Rica in the category of attractiveness in the 2014 Medical Tourism Index (MTI) released last month. But its overall rank in the study stood at 14th or midway among 30 nations led by Canada.

"Obviously, the most attractive reason - and the one in the minds of most - to visit Jamaica is for the island's beaches, coves and crystal-clear water. That's an advantage many destinations can't boast of. Because of its tourism infrastructure, Jamaica is also easily accessible by air and sea from the United States, a major provider of medical tourism patients," Stephano told the Observer.

The report was published through the US based non-profit, International Healthcare Research Centre. The MTI was developed over the last few years by Stephano and professor Dr Marc Fetscherin.The index consists of three pillars including country environment, medical tourism industry, facility and services. Country environment seeks to grade countries based on economy, safety, image and culture.Medical tourism industry grades countries on destination attractiveness and medical tourism costs; facility and services are graded on quality care, reputation, internationalisation and accreditation and patients' experience.

Jamaica tourism arrivals by air and sea totalled 2.4 million between January and August, latest Jamaica Tourist Board data indicates.This reflected a 2.6 per cent rise in stopover arrivals at 1.44 million and a 10 per cent rise in cruise arrivals at some 938,800 compared with year earlier levels.

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