January 14, 2012

Devi Shetty takes affordable health care closer to US


In a first for Indian medical infrastructure industry, the renowned surgeon will set up a super-speciality hospital in Cayman Islands, in a JV with the govt there

Internationally noted cardiac surgeon and medicare promoter Dr Devi Shetty has made Bangalore proud again as he takes his formula of quality, affordable health care offshore — to be exact, the tiny Cayman Islands located south of Cuba and west of Jamaica, around 700 km south of Miami in the US.

In a first for the Indian medicare industry, Dr Shetty will be setting up a super-speciality hospital on the biggest of the three-island group, Grand Cayman. The Cayman Islands are a noted financial centre and tax haven, and the facility will beef up the islands’ medical infrastructure and boost medical tourism there.

Almost a year after an MoU was signed between Dr Shetty and the government of the Cayman Islands, work will shortly commence on the doctor’s ambitious project, Narayana Cayman University Medical Centre. Speaking to Bangalore Mirror, Dr Shetty said the project would get underway in a month.

“The government of the Cayman Islands is our partner in the venture. We will be in charge of equipping and managing the hospital. The project will be completed in a phased manner and will eventually comprise a 2,000-bed hospital and assisted living quarters for about 1,500 families of employees. The first phase of the project will see us set up a 200-bed facility, the university and assisted living quarters,” he said.

The first phase will primarily focus on cancer, cardiac, orthopaedic and major general surgical treatment and the entire 2,000-bed hospital will take more than a decade to be put in place. The facility will be set up across 200 acres on the island of Grand Cayman, on its East End seaport.

India-trained doctors and nurses will be among the 100 doctors and 600 nurses to man the first phase of Dr Shetty’s project. “Doctors trained in India have to often take exams to qualify to practise in countries like the US and the UK. But the Cayman Islands was the first country to recognise our degrees, and we had insisted on this being one of the conditions for us to work there. There will be India-trained doctors in the facility,” he said.

“The prime minister of the Cayman Islands visited our Bangalore facility and stayed for two days. The project was explained to them in detail. All in all, we have taken close to two years to start work on the project,” he said.

The facility will be welcome news for the tiny group of islands, a British overseas territory, which sees at least 700 patients airlifted every year to Miami in the US because of its inadequate medical infrastructure. Given the prohibitive cost of medical care in the US, Dr Shetty’s project promises to bring his tried and tested formula of affordable medicare to the islands.

He has helped the Cayman government put in place a regulatory structure to ensure that costs do not become a deterrent to quality care. “In the US, a doctor loses almost three months of his salary on an average in paying for litigation against malpractices — which raises the overall costs. We have put in place comprehensive tort law which will limit the claims of malpractice to $500,000. This will automatically reduce the insurance costs as well,” said Dr Shetty.

The hospital will be a boon not just to the local population. It will also target patients from the US, Canada, South America and Europe, where medicare is staggeringly expensive. This in turn is certain to boost medical tourism in the islands.

Dr Shetty refused to go into the financial details of the project. “I cannot disclose that because of the contract I have with the government. But let me put it this way. As of now, we own 50 acres of the 200 acres of land that has been earmarked for the hospital, with the option of buying the rest of it in the next two years. We are looking at local entrepreneurs to invest in the actual structure itself. Our part of the deal is to equip and manage the hospital,” he said. However, sources say his investment could be around $1 billion.

So, will Dr Devi Shetty be dividing his time between Bangalore and George Town? “No, the hospital in the Cayman Islands will have its own team. I will visit the facility occasionally, but my primary work is still in Bangalore,” he said.

Medi-dollars from western patients

The Cayman Islands is a British overseas territory in the Caribbean Sea. It comprises three islands — Little Cayman, Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac. The islands are located south of Cuba on the east coast of the US mainland. Florida is the closest US state. The islands have an estimated population of 70,000 people, and a reputation as a tax haven.

The Narayana Cayman University Medical Centre is primarily being planned as an affordable medicare facility for patients from the West. It is located on Grand Cayman at the High Rock site, to provide natural protection against flooding. It will include a tertiary-care hospital, an educational facility, a biotech park and an assisted living community.

Among the conditions in the MoU, the Cayman government is required to provide water at a price acceptable to the company, including a preferential rate for a fixed period of time.

The hospital will also receive a 20-year exemption from paying taxes which may be imposed in the future.

The hospital management on its part is looking to provide energy-efficient solutions for the facility, including a possible air-conditioning technology called a Seawater Air Conditioning System (SWACS) for the complex, given its proximity to cold seawater. The technology will help reduce operational costs by saving almost 70 per cent energy compared to conventional AC systems.


Bob Holly said...

This is really good news that well renowned Dr Shetty will provide his services in cayman now. It will add another glory to the Cayman medical services. I wish him best of luck.

James Nutter said...

This is probably the best news in the Cayman medical industry so far. Dr Shetty is a very reputed doctor. Cayman is the place where tourists from all over the world visit so it would be a great help for them.