Caribbean governments, financial institutions and tourist resorts should invest in medical tourism, a former diplomat has claimed.
According to Sir Ronald Sanders, the islands should use medical tourism to "add a lucrative string to the bow of Caribbean tourism", while boosting the healthcare infrastructure for the benefit of their own residents.
"A huge market is rapidly developing in the United States, Canada and Europe of people who are going abroad to seek urgent medical attention, cosmetic surgery and rehabilitation in salubrious climes," Sir Ronald wrote in the Antigua Sun.
"And there is a massive drive by several developing countries to corner a significant portion of this growing industry."
Sir Ronald pointed out that the UK is "so overburdened" that patients can wait for over a year to get necessary medical treatment such as hip replacement operations.
A survey for Channel 4's Dispatches programme recently revealed that nearly half of NHS hospitals are delaying operations in a bid to save money until the start of the new financial year.
"Consequently, people are opting to go abroad to places like India and Singapore to be treated immediately in private hospitals," he said, adding that the cost of treatment in private hospitals in the UK is "much higher" than in many countries which have dedicated resources to medical tourism.
The Caribbean already benefits from highly trained and skilled doctors who could provide "as good a service and perhaps better to the growing market for medical tourism", Sir Ronald noted.
He is calling for a dedicated medical tourism policy combining investment in modern hospitals and marketing initiatives to attract patients to the Caribbean.
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