Jamaica Promotions Corporation (Jampro), the Jamaican Government’s investment agency, is seeking international collaborations in order to improve medical infrastructure and services in the island with the aim of climbing in the rankings for medical tourism.
Medical tourism is the industry which seeks to encourage people who reside in other countries to come to the island both for excellent medical care in a range of specialties, as well as sun, sea, sand and the warmth of the people of the island.
A PwC report forecast that the medical tourism market would value US$125 billion by 2021 while the wellness market could reach US$808 billion. Internationally, Thailand and India are renowned medical tourism destinations, with millions travelling annually for affordable medical care.
Three known participants in the Jamaican medical tourism industry are the Heart Institute of the Caribbean (HIC), Prosurgicare Services Limited and the Carnegie Hand Institute.
Heart Institute of the Caribbean is described as the first and only premier cardiovascular hospital in Jamaica and the Caribbean at large, which also offers telemetry service with various branches across Jamaica.
HIC is a full diagnostic centre and medical clinic which aims to provide fast, effective, and affordable treatment for all cardiac and cardiac-related illnesses that need urgent treatment by certified specialists. It has an 11-bed intensive care unit. HIC has practice partners across the Caribbean.
Prosurgicare Services Ltd, which is located in Kingston, is a plastic and aesthetic surgery practice headed by Dr Jan Hoctritt. Dr Hochtritt is a German board-certified double specialist with over 20 years of experience. As a general and plastic surgeon, he specialises in aesthetic surgery, breast reconstruction including modern microsurgical techniques, as well as hand and wrist surgery. His skills have assisted a broad range of patients — from cancer survivors and deformed persons to aesthetic patients seeking to augment their beauty.
The Carnegie Hand Institute located in Kingston is headed by Dr Cecil Aird and provides specialised services in the diagnosis, surgical treatment and rehabilitation of the hand and wrist.
Jampro notes that there are also investors in the area of medical training for the industry.
“While the facilities that are in Jamaica are good, it is important to secure international accreditation to gain the confidence of the medical tourist”— Carol Straw, manager of tourism & services, Jamaica Promotions Corporation
In international medical tourism rankings Jamaica is highly rated for the beauty of the island, but scores low overall on medical infrastructure.
The Medical Tourism Index 2020-2021, which provides a comprehensive analysis of the medical travel industry, ranks American perceptions of 46 international health-care destinations, providing insight into how consumers view 41 criteria across three primary dimensions including destination attractiveness, safety, and quality of care.
For the destination criterion, Jamaica ranks 33rd out of the 46 destinations. For the medical tourism industry it ranks 25. For quality of facilities and services it ranks 44 out of 46 destinations.
Carol Straw, manager of tourism & services at Jampro, informed the Jamaica Observer that policy is being developed around which industry expansion can occur.
She stated, “Jamaica, with its established infrastructure for tourism and its highly qualified medical personnel, is well-placed to take advantage of the opportunities afforded by medical tourism. To enable the destination to improve its rankings internationally, there are several actions that are happening or will be taking place,” including liaising with international experts.
Straw said that, with regards to developing the ecosystem for medical tourism to thrive, “we will continue our efforts to identify more local and international players in the medical tourism field who can help the country to grow its own infrastructure. A medical tourism policy has also been drafted for discussion by the Government; this will contribute to creating the necessary framework for medical tourism to grow in Jamaica”.
At the same time, she outlined that the island will see accreditation from new bodies. She said, “While the facilities that are in Jamaica are good, it is important to secure international accreditation to gain the confidence of the medical tourist. The popular accreditation is offered by the Joint Commission International, however, there are other accreditation options available.”
Onc such option is Temos International, a European accreditation body that provides a more cost-effective option than the Joint Commission International (JCI) accreditation.
Straw said, “This agency has facilitated several sessions (webinars and face to face sessions) with the Jamaican medical community to formally introduce accreditation via this body. Through our work with Temos, we have focused on continuous quality improvement (CQI) in providing high-quality, safe, and competent care for patients, with the best available standards and the best-expected outcomes.
The Jampro executive expressed a concern about financing for industry development. She told the Business Observer, “A large part of developing the industry is in the financing. This will enable our doctors to take advantage of the accreditation processes and the opportunities that present themselves in the sector, and develop support personnel such as specialised nurses who help with the delivery of health care. Jampro is actively seeking donors who are willing to establish partnerships with local investors.”
At the same time, Straw stated that it is also critical to facilitate investment in health-care workers. Specialist doctors need the support of nurses, laboratory workers and other specialist staff in the build out of their operations.
She concluded that Jampro continues to work with local investors who are operating pre-med schools or who are in the process of formalising and building out their operations.