Why is Jamaica struggling to attract medical tourism?

Jamaica’s medical tourism sector is struggling despite it being a popular tourist destination. High prices seem to be limiting Jamaica’s potential as a medical tourism destination.

Jamaica is a popular tourist destination as it is an English-speaking, middle-income country with reasonable facilities, so why is medical tourism struggling?

Politicians and policymakers have always sought mega projects to solve local economic problems. One proposed saviour is medical tourism industry. But there needs to be more analysis before it is sold to the public as the means by which Jamaica will be the next Singapore, says Dr Alfred Dawes of the Jamaica Medical Doctors Association-

  • Jamaican healthcare facilities being developed for medical tourism are primarily foreign owned. For medical tourism to be effective in growing the economy, the Jamaican people must be the owners so they can benefit.
  • The cost of private health care is simply too high for Jamaica to compete with neighbours offering medical tourism. I have received enquiries from Americans about the cost of weight-loss surgery, only to be told point blank that it costs way more than in Mexico. We have to bring down the cost of private health care before we can seriously talk about medical tourism.
  • Healthcare facilities in Latin American countries operate on small margins but remain very profitable because of the high volume of patients. Their overheads are low, so the cost to the patient is considerably less than ours.
  • The cost of doing business in Jamaica is just too high. Overheads are high as a result of various factors, including the cost of electricity and the cost of equipment driven up by import duties and corporate taxes. With these high overheads, the private facilities have no choice but to pass on these high costs to the patients.
  • With the high cost of private health care in Jamaica, the average Jamaican cannot access hospital care outside of the public system. This high cost, compared to our competitors, is the primary reason why we are not welcoming North American patients, even though our costs are less than their home countries.