Plans for reversing medical travel from The Bahamas

Doctors Hospital in Nassau, Grand Bahama is discussing a partnership with US giant Cleveland Clinic to develop a private Grand Bahama hospital in Freeport.  This could pave the way for The Bahamas to truly break into medical tourism, reduce overseas medical spending by locals, and develop an expanded high-quality workforce.

Doctors Hospital has a marketing strategy and campaign to attract its core target markets in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean. 16% of Doctors Hospital’s business comes from non-Bahamians, and the target is to grow this number to 50%.

The Cleveland Clinic and Doctors Hospital partnership has a goal of expanding and improving the delivery of healthcare services in the Bahamas. A two-year strategic advisory agreement will provide Doctors Hospital access to Cleveland Clinic’s network of internal experts for strategic planning, clinical education and leadership development. It is hoped with improved healthcare on the islands, fewer will need to travel to the USA and more will come from the USA and Canada for treatment.

A Doctors Hospital/Cleveland Clinic tie-up also offers the possibility to create synergies with the planned Western Atlantic University School of Medicine (WAUSM) project. That investment, for which a heads of agreement has already been signed with the government, is also to be located in Freeport. WAUSM medical professionals could learn and also train at the proposed Doctors Hospital/Cleveland Clinic facility.

Doctors Hospital’s plans to launch the Grand Bahama hospital by 2022 has been made possible by a US$13.5m equity investment in the company from Fairfax Financial Holdings of Canada. The investor will hold 17% of the company.

Proceeds from the private placement will be used to finance strategic growth, enabling Doctors Hospital to explore new outpatient service opportunities and to augment the delivery of critically needed healthcare services outside of New Providence. It says the new capital will accelerate its expansion beyond the borders of The Bahamas and into the wider Caribbean by 2025.

Encouraging medical tourism to the Bahamas has been discussed for many years, but has been dogged by failed projects, poor planning, and significant regulatory delays.

The Bahamas government has a track record of placing regulatory and other barriers that have ended with failed medical tourism projects. Medical tourism and healthcare partnerships with overseas providers are not new. The government and private providers have in the past had unproductive talks with John Hopkins University, Baylor University, and the University of Miami.

The Doctors Hospital/Cleveland Clinic/Fairfax Financial alliance goes beyond medical tourism however, with the possibility of providing improved treatments for Bahamians and residents.

This could sharply reduce the leakage of healthcare dollars outside the Bahamas. Bahamians spent US$400m per year, 40% of total healthcare expenditure, outside the country. Most go to Florida.