Industry, Investment and Commerce Minister, Hon. Anthony Hylton, says that all Jamaicans will benefit from the Government’s plans to expand the country’s health tourism offerings.
He noted that health and wellness tourism will not only help to enhance the quality of the country’s health care, but will also contribute to the economy, through the creation of jobs.
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Minister Hylton was addressing members of the business community during the corporate executive breakfast hosted by the First Global Bank on June 29, at the Terra Nova Hotel in St. Andrew.
The Minister, in responding to questions posed during his presentation, sought to dispel claims that a developed health and wellness sector in Jamaica would seek to widen the gap between the rich and the poor, particularly as it relates to the ability to the most vulnerable to access quality healthcare.
Mr. Hylton stated that the government is working to put in place, a number of projects that would benefit all Jamaicans, especially the unemployed and low income earners.
“The poor will actually benefit from what would be centres of excellence created here in Jamaica to do things and to provide services, some of which are not now locally available, and means that they would have to find foreign exchange and travel abroad to get those services,” he contended. “We’ll bring those services here and they’ll be accessible to the wider public."
He further noted that the government will also be partnering with the private sector and doctors to develop the health tourism sector.
“Public/private partnership will be beneficial, because in most instances, the doctors are asking the government to partner with them and there are a number of good reasons why that is so. Part of it is providing land as part of the investment, and I think the government is keen to do that because through that kind of exchange, the government can leverage certain requirements as it relates to the wider population,” he remarked.
Meanwhile, MedicalDirector of EMedical Global Jamaica Limited, Dr. Neville Graham, commented that it has been proven all over the world that health tourism enhances the local health care, as it not only facilitates a transfer of technology, but it also impacts earnings and job creation prospects.
He noted that it also encourages people, who would otherwise go abroad for healthcare, to stay in Jamaica thereby contributing to the economy.
In addition, he remarked that “public/private partnership would be very important and would also impact the transfer of knowledge and technology. “Many of the doctors, who work publicly, would have worked privately as well so the transfer of knowledge and technology is always there."
Dr. Graham further commented that places such as Singapore and India provide an ideal model on the advantages to health tourism to a country’s development. “It has been proven in Singapore that with the advent of health tourism they are now eighth in the world in terms of providing health care for their own population. In India, five per cent of every patient that health tourism facilities treat, are local people,” he informed.
Also he contended that “the Diaspora will come back to Jamaica for healthcare and people, who would normally travel to Miami and New York would now stay in Jamaica and do their executive tests and surgeries and other forms of medical care”.
Thehealth and wellness segment of the tourism industry is a new growth area with significant potential. Worldwide, health tourism has become a growing trend with an increasing number of destinations diversifying their tourism product into health and wellness tourism including medical, wellness care and related services.
By Athaliah Reynolds-Baker, JIS Reporter