Sun | Dec 17, 2017

‘Sand, sea and surgery’ - Doctor targets back pain sufferers in push for medical tourism

Published:Sunday | November 19, 2017 | 12:00 AMErica Virtue
Walcott
Vistors in Jamaica for sun, sea, and now the doctors want them to come for surgeries.
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Jamaica's 2011 Rhodes Scholar, Dr David Walcott, is moving to make the island the best in neurosurgery in this region.

Walcott, who has done advanced studies in immunology, a branch of biology that studies the immune system in organisms, says there is no reason why Jamaica cannot become a tourist destination offering "sun, sea and surgery".

According to Walcott, with the success from pioneering keyhole neurosurgeries in Jamaica, the island has medical expertise to transform the lives of its people, through tourism that links the drawing cards which include sand and sea, with surgeries.

So confident is Walcott that he has joined forces with innovator and physician Dr Kingsley Chin, chief executive of KIC ventures, a venture capital firm which pioneered technology known as the Freedom Cervical disc.

"The most promising area I see for health care in Jamaica right now, and by promising I mean based on its potential and its appeal to investors, is medical tourism. And so we decided to team up, and now I am working with him under the umbrella of the LESS Institute and KIC ventures.

"Now we are building a medical tourism platform for Jamaica under the umbrella of KIC ventures. Essentially, KIC comes to Jamaica," Walcott told The Sunday Gleaner.

He said many other countries have targeted areas of specialities in medicine and health care in an effort to attract more visitors.

"What I mean by medical tourism is attracting patients to Jamaica for deliberate pursuit of health-care services. It is very different from you coming to Jamaica perhaps falling ill and having to seek medical attention.

"We playfully call it sun, sea, and surgery. It is a well-established industry in many countries that are not very different from Jamaica," said Walcott, as he pointed to countries such as Barbados, Costa Rica, Turkey and Cyprus, which he said have thriving medical tourism industries despite not having the strategic advantages of Jamaica.

"Our niche is orthopaedics. We focus on spine surgeries, and in our opinion it is the most promising market to enter. If you think about how common back pain is, it is the second most common reason to visit a doctor. And so the demand goes without saying," said Walcott.

He argued that with no singular dominance in market force in orthopaedics in this hemisphere, the goal is to develop and take advantage of the need in the medical tourism space.

 

WE HAVE POTENTIAL

 

"Hence our focus on the spine, and having built our brand we can then adopt smaller niches. So we realise there is a very real wave of health transformation that is imminent in Jamaica, and we have the potential, based on our international familiarity to really drive transformation.

"So a very large part of our transformation portfolio is driving change and innovation in health care. But we also believe that under the umbrella of KIC ventures, significant disruption can also be made in culture and technology, by investing in cultural technology," added Walcott.

He told our news team that he is now seeking opportunities to attract investors as Jamaica is an extremely promising destination, with a formidable presence for medical tourism.

"Jamaica is very good for several reasons. Outside of United States and Canada, we are the largest country of English speakers in this region. If you are making a health-care decision, you are going to want to know much about the procedure from the people who will be performing the procedure.

"Communication is the root of their trust, and when you speak the same language, and if something does go awry, you are going to want to understand that you are able to seek litigation. Litigation is much easier to conduct in the same language," said Walcott.

He added that with the road network being built in Jamaica at this time, tourists can come to the island, have surgery and be out of hospital in a day, to continue the rest of their vacation.

erica.virtue@gleanerjm.com