By Christopher Tobutt
The Cayman Islands Government announced a second (after Health City) significant medical tourism project to be known as Aster Cayman Medcity at a press briefing on Monday 21 December. The major new development is a partnership between Aster DM, a global healthcare provider with headquarters based in Dubai, and the Cayman Islands Government. It will provide Cayman with a large hospital-type catering for multi-specialist needs, a medical education centre for Caymanian students wishing to study medicine, as well as an assisted-living facility. The investment, in the region of 350 million US dollars, will proceed in stages, with ground-breaking for the first 3 year stage envisioned for the middle of 2021. No site has been decided upon for the facility yet, but five different sites are being considered, according to Project Director Mr. Gene Thompson, who was present at the briefing beside the Premier, Hon. Alden McLaughlin, and Minister for Health, Hon. Dwayne Seymour. Also, present by Zoom! were Chairman & Managing Director of Aster DM Healthcare, Dr Azad Moopen, and Deputy Managing Director, Ms Alisha Moopen.
Mr. McLaughlin said that he was very pleased to be announcing partnership with Aster, which he said would result in a “New world-class,” facility in Cayman. The new facility would be in a position to offer, “Healthcare services to medical tourists, but also resident,” Mr. Mclaughlin said. It would take three years to complete the first phase, a multi-bed facility that could offer not only tertiary, but highly specialist quaternary care which Cayman residents have previously had to leave the island for, at great expense. There would also be a clinic built at Cayman Brac, he said. Phase three of the project would include a medical university-type facility, and would be scheduled to begin about seven years after the hospital had been operational. “Local contractors will be employed,” Mr. McLaughlin said, “and those who come to work there will need homes and shops.”
The agreement includes a programme for local students interested in pursuing healthcare, as well as a substantial fund for scholarships, which was all part of the contract. The government has agreed a duty waiver on medical equipment and supplies, for a period after the facility is operational, Mr. McLaughlin said, as well as a 5-year no-competition clause, which would prevent similar operations from setting up here, but would not apply to Caymanians or to established medical facilities.
Health Minister Dwayne Seymour said, “I could not be more delighted to see this venture come to the Cayman Islands. Thank you very much for choosing the Cayman Islands over other destinations in the region.”
Alisha Moopen said, “When we came to visit earlier in the year we fell in love with the beautiful islands. I want to share my own excitement and how keen we are to get started. Once we become a part of something it gets our full commitment.”
Gene Thompson Project Director said, “I gave long been an advocate or diversification of our economy.” Health care and medical tourism in particular is something which resists economic swings, he said, and is currently projected for a seven percent increase each year, Mr. Thompson said. “It is also unique in bringing people who stay in our hotels use our restaurants and use our taxi service,” he added.
Ralph Lewis of the Caymanian Times asked the Premier “Do you see Cayman Brac being developed more for medical tourism?” to which the Premier replied that much would depend on what the people of the Brac themselves wanted, as new facilities can put a strain on the infrastructure. Next Mr. Lewis asked Mr. Seymour about future developments. “We’ve always been looking for a third pillar of our economy and medical tourism seems to be the way to go it is proven it can work,” Mr. Seymour replied. Finally, Mr. Lewis addressed Dr. Moopen asking if they visited other places in the region before deciding on Cayman. “We did a lot of research before coming to Cayman,” Dr. Moopen replied, adding that Cayman had been decided upon for a number of reasons, not least of which was its proximity to the biggest market, the United States.