Thu | Oct 19, 2017

Jamaica gets boost for medical tourism

Published:Wednesday | October 28, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Sharonmae Shirley, CEO of JAANAC.

Jamaica's ability to tap into the medical-tourism sector has been significantly boosted under a multilateral arrangement signed recently between the Jamaica National Agency for Accreditation (JANAAC) and the Inter-American Accreditation Cooperation.

Through this agreement, JANAAC's signatory scope with the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC) will be extended to include Medical Laboratory Accreditation to the International Standardization Organization (ISO) 15189 standard.

This will promote the use and acceptance of accredited medical-testing data and results internationally, which will bring the country increased recognition in terms of quality and reliability of its facilities.

Chief executive officer of JANAAC, Sharonmae Shirley, said accredited medical laboratories in Jamaica are now able to compete with the best of such facilities worldwide.

"The bar has been raised. This augurs well for Jamaica. These labs must now raise their service standards in order to compete. This will result in improvements in data quality, data handling and more importantly, with customer care," she said.

Shirley, who was speaking at an accreditation awards ceremony at the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce last week, said that having internationally accredited medical testing facilities is critical for the roll out of medical tourism as an important game changer in the tourism sector.

She said for Jamaica to benefit from the industry, it must provide a world-class health service that conforms to international standards and best practices.

"Medical decisions are based on the results obtained from our medical testing facilities. JANAAC's medical lab accreditation will therefore empower both practitioners and patients alike," Shirley said.

She urged the public to agitate for medical facilities in both the public and private sectors to seek accreditation.

UNIQUELY POISED

Director of National Laboratory Services Dr Angela Scott, who represented Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson, said Jamaica is now uniquely poised to capitalise on this opportunity for health tourism due to this extended scope of accreditation.

She said health tourism encompasses the areas of medical tourism, in which visitors travel to seek appropriate but affordable medical care; and wellness tourism, where there is a more holistic focus on well-being.

"Both of these options have significant untapped potential ... . Health tourism is one of our paths to a better economy," she said.

Meanwhile, president of Jamaica Promotions Corporation, Dianne Edwards, also acknowledged the step as an important milestone in the Corporation's partnership with JANAAC and the work to develop the medical tourism industry.

"What JANAAC is doing is going to be a real building block in the development of medical tourism, because medical tourism only develops in countries where there is accreditation, where people can rely on the results of laboratory testing, and where there is international accreditation and recognition of standards," she said.