Dr Patric Rutherford of Andrews Memorial Hospital
argues that the Jamaican government's reluctance to cut customs duties on medical supplies is stifling the prospects of health tourism – an area that could earn significant revenues in the long term while boosting the local health sector, "It is not just equipment that we import. We have to import a host of supplies on a monthly basis, which are millions of dollars worth of goods, but they make the decision to keep the system as it is and not remove the duties,"
Rutherford argues that shortsighted policymakers do not understand that in return for losing the immediate taxes of health-related import revenues, they will get more revenue in the longer term from encouraging a local industry that needs help.
Andrews Memorial Hospital is a private Adventist-affiliated hospital, and Rutherford complains about the shortage of local qualified nurses and other health professionals. There are many Jamaican nurses that have qualified and work overseas.
Dr Evangeline Javier at the World Bank
Human Development Department explains that a recent study indicates that although there is a skilled labour force in Jamaica, there is a shortage of workers, which is increasingly hampering the country's competitiveness, "These shortages are being greatly felt in the health sector, weakening the quality and efficiency of health services. The shortage of nurses will get worse with the ageing of the Caribbean population.” An in-depth analysis of the report by World Bank officials indicated that migration was a major factor for the shortage, with more than 80 % of Jamaican nurses surveyed considering leaving the island. The report showed that approximately 75 % are dissatisfied with working conditions. Another problem is limited training facilities outside the classroom, and restrictive practices by local nursing bodies. Jamaica seems unable to compensate for health professional migration by attracting people from elsewhere; salaries are too low and working conditions poor.
A paper from The Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica
agrees with Rutherford that Jamaica needs tax reform that promotes economic growth and acts as a catalyst for development, is characterised by simplicity, equity and competitive rates, and is administered in an efficient and effective manner.” The roadmap for tax reform includes legislation and implementation. It has to be put in context that there is a massive fiscal crisis faced by the government so that a single low rate of corporate tax is not possible in the upcoming budget. The second best alternative is to adopt a 10% rate of corporate tax for international traded services-including health tourism. The key is to put in place policies that encourage the growth of new industries and to create an actively enabling environment for areas of obvious additional potential, such as tourism and health services. Health tourism would be regarded as a reverse export and would pay corporate tax at only 10 per cent. US hospital groups would also be able to take advantage of Jamaica's double taxation treaties to offset this tax against their US taxation. Rather than a cash-strapped government giving the new industry additional tax incentives, the government could give the business land in return for a quota of Jamaicans who would receive free health services. The Government could reform customs duties across the board to a low flat fee that would allow the importation of the very expensive specialised equipment that such a business would require. A sufficiently big industry of this type would produce enough revenue to cover most of the health needs of the entire Jamaican population - true free health care for all. “
Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett says that health and wellness tourism has great potential for development in Jamaica. The Minister urged Jamaicans to recognise and support businesses owned and operated by nationals. He was speaking at the launch of Jencare
’s latest international clinic in Miramar, Florida, USA.Jencare Skin Farm started as a modest shop in Kingston, Jamaica. It quickly grew in Jamaica and has expended into international markets, with clinics in Miami, New York and Trinidad to cater for migrating Jamaicans as well as global clients.