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Welcoming medical tourism to Jamaica

BY GAUNETTE SINCLAIR-MARAGH

Wednesday, March 13, 2013    

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IT is extremely heartwarming that Jamaica was considered for the development and operation of a medical tourism facility in St James. This 'five-star' facility by the American Global MD is welcoming news for Brand Jamaica. Medical tourism has the potential to improve Jamaica's economy through the dynamism of such a combination of health care services and vacation; promoting health care services and a facility to attract tourists from around the world. It will enable persons to come to Jamaica to obtain health care in a leisurely setting. What a wonderful combination!

However, I am beseeching JAMPRO not to allow euphoria and anxiety for wanting investments to take over the negotiation process with the investor, as the big question is: What is the measurable and sustainable benefit for Jamaica?

Some suggestions are:

(1) Include both the ministries of health and tourism in the planning process. This is an interesting and realistic way to obtain collaboration so as to move Jamaica forward.

(2) Ensure that the Jamaican people will be employed not only at the unskilled level but in the specialised areas of health care so as to provide employment for our nurses, dentists, medical practitioners and other trained medical specialists. This will also help in human capacity retention and curtail the migration issue among our trained and specialised populace.

(3) Bargain for future collaboration with our universities to provide training in specialised areas of plastic surgery, cosmetic surgery and the other areas that the facility will be specialising in. This will assist in the development of these educational institutions and also in building human capacity.

(4) Get in-depth information regarding health insurance providers of the target market and their willingness to pay for overseas health care costs. This will provide some level of certainty as to the number of persons who will be able to afford this service as a personal cost.

(5) Discuss legal issues and how they will be managed. There are issues such as malpractice, costs and payments. How prepared will the facility be to handle them? Bear in mind that Brand Jamaica is also promoted through word-of-mouth publicity.

(6) Discuss access by Jamaicans. Can they also derive such health care, since the local hospitals are not always equipped to provide such services?

(7) Encourage therapeutic care such as visits to mineral baths and botanical gardens to establish linkages and increase the tourism reach.

Jamaica is attractive for such an investment — the location, the institutional framework and the superb tourism offering. Medical tourism is a viable niche market, as realised in countries such as Thailand and India. It will boost tourism and contribute tremendously to national growth and development, but let us not make the same mistake as done in the past with other investors ... let us do it right this time, and we can do it right.

The next move, JAMPRO, is to broaden medical tourism to health tourism where some of our traditional herbs, vegetation and practices can be used for conventional health care in an institutionalised manner. Be on the lookout for investors. Our university students have done some interesting enquiry in this area... have dialogue with them.

gaunsmar@yahoo.com

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