Reported from Ascension Health Alliance press release and the St. Louis Post Dispatch
More than 500 years after Christopher Columbus discovered the Cayman Islands in 1503, Ascension Health Alliance, the nation’s largest Catholic and nonprofit health system and the parent of Austin’s Seton Healthcare Family, has discovered the islands as a perfect place to bring innovative health care.
In a recently announced partnership with Narayana Hrudayalaya Hospitals of India, Ascension will provide facilities planning, supply chain management and biomedical engineering services to a new $2 billion dollar ”Health City” to be built only an hour flight from the US.
Narayana Hrudayalaya – which means “God’s compassionate home” in Sanskrit – will provide technical input and direction to the Cayman team. The multi-specialty hospital will provide services not widely available in the region such as open-heart/bypass surgery, angioplasty, heart-valve replacement, cancer treatment, bone-marrow transplant, nuclear medicine, organ transplant and orthopedics.
“Ascension Health has been working with Dr. Shetty for two years to explore ways to adapt his success at providing high-quality healthcare at low cost,” said Anthony R. Tersigni, President and Chief Executive Officer of Ascension Health Alliance. “We’re excited to be part of this venture. Together, we are committed to bring first-rate healthcare provided in a world-class setting.”
With an average income of around $47,000 Cayman Islands Dollar, or approximately $33,000 US, Caymanians have the highest standard of living in the Caribbean that is roughly equivalent to Switzerland, according to the CIA World Fact Book. With a population of less than 60,000, the islands are an international tax shelter haven having more registered businesses than people.
The $2 billion dollar project will mean an average investment of approximate $34,000 for each citizen of the Cayman Islands.
According to an article by Jim Doyle published by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Tersigni denies that the new “Health City” being built by the recently formed for-profit Ascension Health Alliance is actually aimed at becoming a medical tourism facility. The system’s partner, Narayana Hrudayalaya Hospitals in India, has cast the project in sharply different terms.
For years, Narayana’s founder, Dr. Devi Prasad Shetty, has promoted the idea of building an offshore medical center to serve primarily American patients who cannot afford health care in the United States.
Building a humanitarian “Health City” in one of the richest Caribbean countries that lies 130 miles off the Florida coast has brought questions from a number of industry experts according the article.
Health care industry experts agree the Grand Cayman hospital complex, which would be run for profit, is certain to draw U.S. patients.
“I think the attraction of doing anything close to the mainland U.S. is that it’s the biggest healthcare market in the world,” with tens of millions of uninsured and underinsured patients, Tarun Khanna, a professor at Harvard Business School who has studied and written about Shetty’s hospital system in India, told the Post-Dispatch.
Narayana’s flagship complex in Bangalore offers high-quality medical care at fraction of the price of U.S. hospitals and is considered one of the best heart hospitals in the world.
Medical tourism or not, the $2 billion project Health City is scheduled to break ground in August. It will be built in phases over 15 years on a 200-acre site, and will include a tertiary-care hospital, an educational facility, a biotech park and an assisted living community.
Phase one will be approximately 140 beds expected to open in early 2013. The hospital will seek accreditation by Joint Commission International (JCI), the international arm of The Joint Commission and the global leader in accrediting healthcare organizations.
The multi-specialty hospital will provide services not widely available in the region such as open-heart/bypass surgery, angioplasty, heart-valve replacement, cancer treatment, bone-marrow transplant, nuclear medicine, organ transplant and orthopedics. Once complete, the hospital will house as many as 2,000 beds.
According to Ascension, the Health City will bring significant benefits to the Cayman Islands, in both the short and long term. The project will greatly contribute to the health of its citizenry, and bring new industry to the country. The project will create thousands of jobs, diversify the economy, provide ongoing research and education opportunities, and generate billions of dollars in direct and spin-off benefits.
One of Ascension Health Alliance’s goals is to gain an understanding of Dr. Shetty’s success at providing high-quality care at low cost and determining if those methods can have an impact on the cost of healthcare in the U.S.
“This joint effort will provide Ascension Health Alliance and its subsidiaries opportunities to examine and learn about different approaches to providing healthcare to all with special attention to those who are poor and vulnerable, focusing on innovative ways to provide high-quality medical care at lower cost,” Dr. Tersigni said. “These learnings then can benefit facilities in the United States and worldwide as we address one of the most challenging periods in our history.”