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Creating a Medical Hub in the Caribbean

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Dr. Conville Brown, founder, director and Physician-in-Chief of The Bahamas Heart Center, has a whole list of reasons why the Caribbean is a prime candidate as a medical tourism destination.

We have a lot of American trained doctors and U.S. hospital accreditations, no one is closer to the U.S. than us, we’re English speaking, have the same dollar value and we like to think we provide the best hospitality in the West,” Dr. Brown said during his presentation at this year’s World Medical Tourism and Global Health Congress.

He went on to explain that the Caribbean has a long history of political and economic stability and maintains a non-punitive but compensatory malpractice environment, allowing them to keep costs at an affordable level. Certain medical procedures, he said, that may be unavailable in other jurisdictions can be legally and ethically performed, presenting novel opportunities for collaboration. High frequency ultrasound is one example of a technology not available in the U.S. that is used regularly in the Bahamas.

Already a booming tourist spot, the Caribbean is suited to meeting the needs of travelers. “We can and do bring you the best in American medicine, where it is better in the Bahamas,” Dr. Brown said. “We’re only some 48 miles off the coast of Florida – sometimes it takes me longer to drive to work than it does to travel between the Bahamas and Florida.”

While Dr. Brown made clear during his session the benefits available to medical tourists traveling to the Caribbean, Dr. Roger Mason discussed the inverse – the benefit of medical tourism to the economy and people of the Caribbean.

“First world nations are overburdened with skyrocketing healthcare costs. Emerging nations suffer from a chronic lack of skilled doctors and a lack of adequate nursing personnel,” Dr. Mason said. “The negative conditions have coincided to create what I’m calling the perfect storm.”

Dr. Mason proposes a dovetailing of the reciprocal strengths and weaknesses of both first-world and emerging nations’ healthcare systems by building a medical center on each of the Caribbean islands.

“We’re going to create, in the Caribbean, a world-class health system that’s going to rival others worldwide,” he declared.

Without medical tourism, the Caribbean nations “lack the requirements to sustain a first world medical care system,” but with the addition of the medical tourism industry, the potential for quality first class care available to everyone arises: “we’ll be diversifying each country’s economic base, stimulating a secondary tourism industry.”

Dr. Mason said his model will “create an infrastructure and a sustainable program for all these countries” and that the infrastructure already there is conducive to medical tourism. The model approaches malpractice from a non-punitive standpoint that still provides 100 percent patient satisfaction. This way, Caribbean medical centers can provide excellent healthcare at 20 percent of the cost of similar care in the U.S.

Each center would also focus on preventative health and have dialysis units to cater to the more than a million tourists who are dialysis-dependent. Dr. Mason plans to recruit doctors from the U.S., Canada and Britain, who can work at the centers while finishing their training and receiving international credentials. Their pay, Dr. Mason said, would also be significantly higher.

Antigua and the Bahamas have already broken into the medical tourism industry, Antigua at the planning and development stage and the Bahamas already seeing medical tourists from the U.S. for cancer-related, cardiovascular, cosmetic and other procedures.

From the perspective of medical tourist, local, medical professional or facilitator, the Caribbean offers an array of medical tourism opportunities – “We are looking for partners in this venture,” Dr. Mason said.

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