The industry, investment and commerce minister, Anthony Hylton, says that all Jamaicans will benefit from the government’s plans to expand the country’s health and wellness tourism offerings as it 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.
The minister seeks 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. Hylton says 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. We will bring those services here and they will all be accessible to the wider public."
The government plans to partner with the private sector and doctors to develop the health tourism sector. Hylton explains, "Public/private partnership will be beneficial as doctors are asking the government to partner with them by providing land as part of the investment. In exchange we can leverage certain requirements as it relates to the wider population.”
Dr. Neville Graham of EMedical Global Jamaica
argues that health tourism enhances local healthcare and encourages people, who would otherwise go abroad for healthcare, to stay in Jamaica, “It has been proven in Singapore that health tourism means they are now eighth in the world in terms of providing healthcare for their own population."
The government argues that health tourism will mean not only that Jamaicans would stop travelling to Miami or New York for healthcare, but people who have emigrated to the USA or elsewhere will return home for treatment.
The health and wellness segment of the tourism industry is a new growth area with significant potential. But Jamaican governments have been making promises on developing the sectors for many years, with little sign of progress.
According to the government there are two million Jamaicans living overseas, mainly in the UK, Canada and the USA. This is a huge number as the population only numbers 2.7 million. The government sees them not only as a potential market, but also as a source of overseas investment.
The dilemma is that the government may be able to offer land, but does not have the money to develop healthcare facilities and few local businesses can invest serious money. So any progress will depend on getting overseas companies to look to the island for investment opportunities.
Before investors part with any cash, they will want to see the politicians deliver on promises various reforms and the strategies including developing the infrastructure. Problems of lawlessness make it hard to guarantee safety. There are no agencies, trade bodies, travel groups or hospitals actively seeking overseas business.