Minister for Health and Social Development, Hon. Ronnie Skelton announced that the proposed medical tourism will be a crucial financer to Health Services (BVIHSA) in the Territory which is currently operating on a 20 percent revenue stream.
During the questions and answers segment of the House of Assembly on 17 April, Hon. Skelton disclosed: “Madame Speaker on top of the NHI, we are also trying to attract health tourism into this country. We understand that we need other people to be able to help to get to get the best health care that we possibly can. We are talking to people to come and help us to pay for health care system so there will be other revenues being collected by the hospital through people coming to access care through medical tourism.”
The Minister told the House: “80 percent of the cost at Peebles Hospital right now is exempt. There is only a 20 percent revenue stream as we speak. The majority of the monies come from the Government to run the system. Before we had insurance in this country we gave people benefits – the police, the prison, 65 years and over, all children, the indigents, all of these people are exempt at Peebles from medication and accessing service.”
Hon. Skelton explained that groups such as the police, and the prison were given medical insurance, but efforts were not made to address the point that insurance should pay for the cost. “With the introduction of the National Health Insurance (NHI) government will continue covering subsidies for the indigents and those people who cannot afford to pay. All of those people who government have exempted the deductible is supposed to be paid; so there will still be some level of subsidy for people,” he announced.
Medical Tourism Strides
At a press briefing on 14 January the Ministry of Health, BVI Health Services Authority and representatives from the Medical Tourism Association highlighted plans for the Territory’s thrust into the medical tourism arena.
Jonathan Edelheit, JD, Chief Executive Officer of the Medical Tourism Association announced that medical tourism is a 60 billion dollar industry, and explained that as the world becomes globalized, people are travelling overseas to enjoy medical services that might not be in their country or to avoid long waits.
Medical tourism, he stated, is perfect for the BVI because tourism is already a local industry. He pointed out that when people travel for medical purposes they bring their spouses, or other relatives which translates into money being spent in the local economy.
Edelheit explained that studies show that medical tourists spend more and added that with more people travelling for medical purposes now is the time for destinations such as the BVI to become involved in the industry. He said that the territory just needs to establish its medical tourism brand, and create the right strategy.
According to Wikipedia “Medical tourism or health tourism is the travel of people to another country for the purpose of obtaining medical treatment in that country. Traditionally, people would travel from less developed countries to major medical centers in highly developed countries for medical treatment that was unavailable in their own communities. The recent trend is for people to travel from developed countries to third world countries for medical treatments because of cost consideration, though the traditional pattern still continues. Another reason for travel for medical treatment is because some treatments may not be legal in the home country, such as some fertility procedures. Some people travel to obtain medical surgeries or other treatments. Some people go abroad for dental tourism or fertility tourism. People with rare genetic disorders may travel to another country where treatment of these conditions is better understood. However, virtually every type of health care, including psychiatry, alternative treatments, convalescent care and even burial services are available.”