The COVID-19 crisis has thrown an aspect of the Cayman’s Islands health care industry into sharp focus.
To be clear, it’s not the quality of healthcare delivery.
In fact, Premier Alden McLaughlin recently bragged about the global standing of Cayman in its fightback against the dreadful virus.
While Cayman has been credited for being in the top five globally for its aggressive testing regime, Premier McLaughlin took that a step further recently in claiming:
“I would hazard to say now that Cayman is the most successful country in the world thus far with managing this pandemic.”
With only one death and an impressive recovery rate, despite one of the highest per capita incidences of the disease in the region, Cayman can be proud of its record in suppressing COVID-19.
And so should the healthcare professionals, including support staff working throughout the health care system.
But it’s more than a system, it’s an industry.
Caymanians Times put the issue to Health Minister Dwayne Seymour.
The question was “if there are any programmes available that will encourage Caymanians to follow that profession” - and not just for the comparatively high levels of remuneration.
The concern was predicated on the fact that there aren’t currently many Caymanians in that industry. It proposed that “what should be encouraged is for Caymanians to consider diversifying and go into the health industry.”
Minister Seymour framed his response very carefully in prescribing the direction that Cayman could - and possibly should - take on this issue.
“It’s been a pet peeve of mine for years,” he revealed citing nearby Cuba as an example to be emulated.
“Look at the example of Cuba where they concentrated on certain specialities to encourage their people to be trained in and we see how Cuba now has many doctors, nurses and medical staff.”
Warming to the topic but carefully choosing his words - the Premier was seated just two chairs away - Minister. Seymour put his views on record.
“At some point the conversation needs to be had in the very near future about where we want to take Cayman, what industries we want our people to be trained up in and where we want to put most of our resources.”
“I think we need to concentrate,” he offered. “I think we are all over the place as a country...my personal note.”
On that note, he pointed to the ongoing nursing programme at UCCI. There are also schemes available via Health City and the HSA which have been providing nurse training programmes as well as overseas study at undergraduate and specialist levels.
“There are some other opportunities that I’ve discovered over the last six months that I wasn't able to unveil because of the COVID-19 crisis in terms of some opportunities in the US for young Caymanian doctors that I’ve been working on for almost a year and not only at University of the West Indies in Jamaica.”
According to Mr Seymour, “It's very good conversations for us to continue having and one that I’m duly interested in and I think the government has alluded that they are interested in the medical field in terms of training up Caymanians.”
“So”, he added, “we just need to get a real solid approach as to how we move in that direction and where we want to go as a country.
I’ve never really seen that drive like we had in the 70s or 80s where it was financial services and was concentrating on that.”
But if Cayman were to invest more in developing its own Caymanian healthcare expertise across the range of professions in the industry, the interest must be there among Caymanians, the minister reminded.
“First of all we need to ask the children ‘are you interested’?” he proposed.
“Sometimes I think we forget to include the children as to what they want to do. Maybe it's just technology that we concentrate on and a lot of that is happening here with Tech City.”
“So it will be a great conversation for us to continue having,” he concluded.
Yes indeed, Minister. Seymour, but not just a great conversation - a necessary conversation and action to ensure that Caymanians are equipped with the skills, training and qualifications to drive the industries which drive the economy.