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Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson, says Jamaica’s participation in the rapidly growing global health export sector is crucial to the country’s sustainable health development.

He said health care services are recognised as being a very important contributor to the growth and development of the services sector, which the most recent estimates put at 81.5 per cent of Jamaica’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

In this regard, the Health Minister emphasised that Jamaica must participate in the emerging opportunities offered by health tourism, as the strategic development of the sector is critical to the country’s development.

Dr. Ferguson was  making his contribution to the 2012/13 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives, on July 11, under the theme: ‘Quality health care for all: Fulfilling the Mission, Advancing the Vision’.

Health tourism is the practise of travelling to a tourist destination with the main purpose of receiving health care.

The Minister informed that in a bid to take advantage of the newly emerging sector, a project involving the public and private sectors has been initiated, in an effort to establish the basis for building the health tourism infrastructure capacity for Jamaica.

The programme involves the University of the West Indies, the University of Technology, the private sector consortium of Columbus Flow, Jamaica National MCSystems, Telegens Ltd. and Telemedicine Ltd.

In this partnership, the Government is represented by the National Health Fund, the Mandeville Hospital and the University Hospital of the West Indies.

“We are actively pursuing this course in co-operation with the Ministries of Tourism and Industry, Investment and Commerce, and the Planning Institute of Jamaica,” Dr. Ferguson noted.

Dr. Ferguson said that health tourism is a good prospect for Jamaica based on three essential factors – the global competitiveness of Jamaica’s health service; the quality and sustainability of Jamaica’s health service system; and the committed political will.

He said these factors also separated Jamaica’s health tourism market from all other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Other critical factors include: Jamaica’s much lower cost per capita for health care, estimated to be 10 to 20 times less than the cost in the United States (US), Canada and Europe; the high quality of patient/customer care; high patient/customer satisfaction; and Jamaica’s history and culture of excellent service in the tourism sector.

Additionally, Dr. Ferguson said Jamaica’s health professionals have a reputation for offering high quality service.  “In particular, the reputation of the Jamaican doctor and the Jamaican nurse working in the US, Canada and the UK is legendary,” he added.

The Minister pointed out that Jamaica also offers easy accessibility and efficient cross-border payment and reconciliation as well as a developed electronic medical records system, which is in compliance with HL7 and HIPAA standards for seamless portability of data and insurance coverage between Jamaica and the US or any other country.

“The country also possesses high level integrity for patient data storage, confidentiality, security and tele-health broadband platform, among a host of other pluses,” Dr. Ferguson said.

 

By Athaliah Reynolds-Baker, JIS Reporter