Jamaican health tourism is needs to place greater focus on attracting overseas based Jamaicans and their families. The Jamaican Diaspora Canada Foundation says 300,000 Jamaicans live in Canada, and there are four and a half million around the world.
Phillip Mascoll of the Jamaican Diaspora Canada Foundation argues, “Health tourism is a market we seriously need to tap into. I do not want to spend my twilight years in the cold. I would much prefer to spend it in Negril or Ocho Rios, but there are things you need to put in place. The fundamental right of every Jamaican is personal security, which is a problem in this country. Old people are afraid. When you reach 75 you want somewhere to come and retire that is sunny, where you can see a doctor and there is a clinic. We have the capacity to put those things in place. And there are also people in the diaspora who will come here and build those places, once the crime has been dealt with. Jamaicans will come any time, no matter what, but foreigners will not do that.”
The Jamaican Diaspora Canada Foundation argues that expatriates are willing to work closely with the Jamaican government to improve healthcare and develop health tourism. But they need the government to “ walk the walk, not just talk the talk”. It argues that there is no better place to recuperate from anything than Jamaica. But warns that local politics and bureaucracy can and often do get in the way.
A Jamaican doctor is behind the consortium of 50 doctors from North Carolina in the USA, which will be building Jamaica’s five-star medical 200-room hospital in Rose Hall, Montego Bay. American Global MD (AGMD) is developing the country’s first five-star medical tourism facility. AGMD is a consortium of American-trained physicians and investors, all of whom have strong Jamaican links as a result of having previously studied or practiced in the country. Under the MOU, AGMD will build a fully amenitized 200-bed hospital and medical facility that will target the North American and Caribbean markets. It will deliver services ranging from elective surgeries, rehabilitation and naturopathy.Under the first phase of the project, a 50 to 75 bed patient facility will be constructed to offer cosmetic surgery, bariatric services and dental care.
JAMPRO, the Jamaican government’s tourism and investment promotion agency reveals that members of the diaspora are now also organising to invest US$200 million to build a health facility in Negril.It is working hard to bring other investors on board to develop health tourism.
JAMPRO says that many people from abroad, including the Caribbean are currently utilizing health facilities in Jamaica. Innsurance companies in Caribbean countries encourage people to travel overseas for medical procedures, as local facilities are often not available.
Jamaica has often promoted health and medical tourism, but has failed to attract American and Canadian business.The idea of concentrating on Jamaicans living in those countries is being explored as opposed to general marketing to people who have never been to Jamaica and may find the culture off putting.
The closeness and ease of travel to Jamaica for North Americans, along with Jamaica’s traditional reputation as a strong tourism destination with relatively low labor costs mean that the medical tourism sector has significant potential for the island. By air, Jamaica is one to three hours away from the United States and is in the Eastern Standard Time zone, making it convenient to do business with the USA, Latin America and the Caribbean.
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