Barbados and Bahamas want to move into health tourism

The world recession is damaging the tourism business in many Caribbean islands and, as they look to replace lost tourist income, some of them are looking to medical tourism (the rapidly-growing practice of traveling across international borders to obtain health care) as an option.  Barbados and the Bahamas are both keen on becoming major health tourism destinations. Barbadian doctors trained in innovative, minimally invasive gynaecological surgery, are providing the service in Barbados for the first time and training other local doctors. The Ministry of Health is hailing the move as an example of the expanded health services available in the country, noting that Barbados “is poised and ready to take advantage of the health tourism sector”.

Minister of Health Donville Inniss reflects that Barbados could be the place of choice for health and medical tourism. The Ministry of Health is about to enter into negotiations with potential consultants on conducting a feasibility study on the construction of a new hospital. A new independent National Health Care Quality Council will be the national coordinating agency for quality management in the health sector. The council will provide annual reports on the quality of the sector; set benchmarks by which performance can be measured, and establish performance standards and protocols, measurable indicator and evidence-based tools that should be applied in evaluating every aspect of the health services and to audit the performance of institutions and providers; license health care institutions and develop links with reputable international agencies to help with benchmarking, peer review and accreditation.

Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) chairman Hannes Babak is aggressively pushing the idea of using medical tourism to help boost Grand Bahama’s ailing economy, “people will spend money on the island. They have to fly in here, use the facilities, the airport, so there is a huge effect on medical tourism. One side is the medical and one side is tourism. Medical tourism is the perfect business that we can bring and create here in Freeport where we can be the leader in this area of the world and not a follower. We can attract one of the leading hospitals from the United States.”

GPBA, the organization that runs Freeport harbor and economic zone, has targeted 10 to 15 hospitals in the United States with a developer/investor kit to see if they are willing to branch out into Grand Bahama. No US hospitals have admitted to being in talks or having any interest in medical tourism in the Bahamas. GBPA aims to attract only certain types of medical procedures and to start off with those that are relatively low risk to avoid any accidents that could potentially ruin the business.

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