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Medical Tourism “offshore medical college”

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What is called Medical Tourism- persons going to countries other than their own for either urgent or elective procedures – is fast becoming a worldwide, multi billion dollar industry. Yet medical tourism is actually thousands of years old. In ancient Greece, pilgrims and patients came from all over the Mediterranean to the sanctuary for healing.{{more}} In Roman Britain, patients took the waters of a shrine of a township of Bath., a practice that continued for 2000 years. From the eighteenth century, wealthy Europeans traveled to spas in the Nile of Egypt. In the twenty first century, relatively low cast jet travel has taken the industry beyond the wealthy and desperate countries that actively promote medical tourism, including Cuba, Costa Rica, India, Israel, Thailand and Mexico. India is, however, considered the leading country promoting medical tourism. The country’s National Health Policy declares that treatment of foreign patients is legally an export and is deemed eligible for all fiscal incentives extended to export earnings. India’s highly rated education system is not only turning out computer programmers and engineers, but an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 Doctors and nurses each year.

In a Caribbean context, we may pose the question: can an “offshore medical college” be the forerunner to the medical tourism? Thirty years ago when the St. George’s University opened its medical training facility in Grenada, not many persons regarded it as a credible option to pursue medical studies of the highest standards. Over time however, it has made its mark, attracted many distinguished professors and scholars, with student intake not only from the United States, The United Kingdom and the Caribbean, but also increasing numbers from the Asian Continent.

A recent study by Deloitte Center for Health Solutions reveals that many Americans would now consider traveling abroad for medical procedures if the cost is less and the quality equal. Medical tourism has entered into the health care debate as costs rise, and consumers are asked to share a growing proportion of upfront expenses. It seems that U.S. employers would be willing to pay for an employee’s medical procedure of equivalent equality abroad so as to lower overall health care costs. Younger people as well as Hispanics and Asians in the U.S. are among a growing clientele most likely to consider medical tourism.

Countries interested in medical tourism tended to start offering care to specific markets, but have expanded their services as demand grows around the world. Cuba, for example, first aimed its services at well-off patients from Central and South America, and after a track record attracts patients from Canada, Germany and Italy. Israel, on the other hand, caters to both Jewish patients and people from nearby countries. One Israeli hospital advertises worldwide services, specializing in both male and female infertility.

Grenada may well be poised to take advantage of the infrastructure it has built over the past thirty years, and the high quality of faculty staff it has attracted to establish a reputation for itself in some niche areas of medicine. St. Vincent and the Grenadines is expected to be lower down the totem pole than Grenada is at this stage. But with the reported new thrust towards the development of offshore medical facilities, it would be opportune for the country to position itself to identify niche areas for the delivery of quality standards that meet the requirements not only of the local clientele but also of others from overseas. Yes, a well structured medical college can help to lay the foundation on which a selective medical industry can be built.