Another significant step towards a goal of establishing Cayman as the preferred destination for medical tourism was recorded this week with the site selection for the new Aster Cayman Medcity.
The company has confirmed the location as what it describes as “a significant site in West Bay” purchased from the Dart Group, for the CI$350 million facility which will be built in phases.
Actual construction is expected to start by the summer and when all phases are completed, expected by late 2022/early 2023 the facility will feature a 150-bed comprehensive with an integrated assisted living facility and a healthcare university.
Tertiary and quaternary care - advanced levels of medicine which are highly specialized and not widely accessed - will also be hallmarks of Aster Cayman Med City, which the developers say is part of a joint commitment to establishing the Cayman Islands as the preferred location for ‘destination healthcare’, or medical tourism.
The company says the target market for its specialised services is the Caribbean region, North America, Canada, Latin & South America.
Hon. Premier Alden McLaughlin remarked that the Aster Cayman Med City project - the second major hospital project recently announced for Cayman - reflects his administration’s tourism diversification strategy.
“I have long pursued diversification of our economy, especially into areas as recession resilient as healthcare,” the Premier stated.
“Not only does Aster Cayman Medcity move us forward in that pursuit," he added. Mr McLaughlin said quaternary healthcare services, the highest level of care, ensures that the Cayman Islands will have one of the most advanced and highest quality health systems in the whole region.
"That will allow us to attract the best talent across all economic sectors and cement our Islands’ reputation as one of the most advanced business locations in the region.”
He also said, “It will help to boost our tourism industry, particularly as we look to recover from the pandemic, through International travellers discovering what the Cayman Islands has to offer as a vacation destination, not just a healthcare tourism one.”
The Premier also cited the immediate revenue to government in the form of planning fees and duties as well as local construction employment.
Hon. Minister for Health, Dwayne Seymour commented: “The Aster project fits perfectly with my vision to see the Cayman Islands become a premier healthcare tourism destination and at the same time have some of the very best healthcare services for its own residents.”
Mr Seymour said the development will bring much-needed specialist services that Caymanians have typically had to go overseas for, and as a quaternary-level institution, ensures the Cayman Islands health economy will have the highest levels of care expertise, alongside more routine services.
He was “particularly excited” about the development of comprehensive assisted living facilities “for our seniors”, properly integrated with healthcare support.
Mr Seymour said that is “part of our care system that I have long pushed to see develop, and very much fits with my own vision for a highly comprehensive, fully integrated health and social care system. It is very gratifying to see that vision now becoming a reality.”
On the choice of the West Bay site, Gene Thompson, Local Project Director for Aster Cayman Medcity, said it is important for major healthcare projects to be accessible, especially when receiving critically ill patients by air.
“This location ensures swift access from the airport and short travel distances for around 65 per cent of the Grand Cayman population, especially those in the Seven Mile Corridor, George Town and South Sound. As a site, it represents the best possible accessibility, with low environmental impact and no requirement to add further civil projects at public expense to support it.”
Mr Thompson also said Aster Cayman Med City “will be a development that all Caymanians will be able to feel proud of, and I am obviously excited about the hundreds of jobs we’re creating for Caymanians too, starting with the construction sector.”
The facility will be sited directly alongside Esterley Tibbetts Highway, ensuring rapid, dual-carriageway access between the multi-phase campus and Owen Roberts International Airport, the main gateway for its International guests.
It was stated that access is likely to be further enhanced when the new airport connector road comes into operation. The 40-acre site is bordered by Batabano Road, Esterley Tibbetts Highway and a Southern-edge connector road, currently with little development immediately adjoining.
Aster has also submitted an application for a Planned Area Development Master Plan, confirming that the site will also be enhanced through carefully planned infrastructure, landscaping, comprehensive recycling facilities, waste management, and stormwater management.
The development will also include housing, retail, and a commercial centre, which will create a fully master-planned community.