It is time that Barbados increase its efforts to capitalize on the opportunities available through medical tourism, says executive director of the Caribbean Export Development Agency, Pamela Coke-Hamilton.
She said it would result in valuable foreign exchange and create job opportunities and other spin-off benefits if Barbados was able to attract people to the island for various treatments.
“If we look at the fact that so many of our nurses are in the United States, Canada and England, all over, and they are taken from us, trained by us and utilized in their countries. Therefore, it would seem to me that there shouldn’t be a problem with their people coming here because it wouldn’t be a question therefore of our lack of capacity to provide a service. If they can provide a service there then they can also provide the service here,” explained Coke-Hamilton.
“So the issue that we need to begin to look at is how do we leverage that critical component of our professional services in the area of medical facility to bring medical tourism in a real way in the region. In a systematic way, in a way that actually enables us to expand not only the fact that we are providing nursing services to rest of the world, but bringing the tourists here so that we can provide it here and have the spin-off effects and linkages to all the other aspects of tourism,” she added.
The head of the development agency said, however, the major issue that needed to be ironed out if Barbados and the region were to gain momentum from such venture would be to put policies in place so that international medical benefits could be used here.
“What it would mean is that wherever the person does the service in the region they would be covered . . . and therefore persons would come,” she added.
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Senator Maxine McClean threw her support behind the idea while admitting that the necessary regulatory framework that needed to expand the industry was missing.
They were responding to questions from the media last Friday at the Radisson Aquatica Resort, following the handing over of a cheque from the European Union to the agency for the implementation of the services sector component of the Economic Partnership Agreement.
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