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By Way of Introduction

This is a story of how the Cayman Islands becomes THE destination for Destination Healthcare. It started some time ago.

Hi, I am Gene Thompson, Project Director for Aster Cayman Medcity, & I am delighted to share the story behind the vision to make the Cayman Islands THE destination for Destination Healthcare for the Region

A Little Bit of Background…

I come from a multi-generational Caymanian family & these are Islands I love with a passion. I have grown up & worked through an era in which our Islands have prospered greatly from two vital industries, tourism & financial services. I have seen first hand how being in global growth industries has created jobs & opportunities.

Like many of you, I have also worried about what happens if these two mainstays of our economy falter, given how reliant on them we are. I realised some time ago that diversifying our economy & finding the next big drivers of growth & prosperity was vital for our Islands & especially for future generations, including my own future generations. With this very much in mind, I set out to do something about it.

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The Birth of Medical Tourism

It’s no secret that I have an interest in medical tourism & the technology sector, as I firmly believe that these can form additional pillars to our economy, & are sectors where we can compete, just like with tourism & financial services, on the global stage. Both sectors have the potential, & indeed are already contributing to the growth of jobs & opportunities, especially for our younger generations.

I led the establishment of a major medical tourism institution on our shores & it is often seen as the start of medical tourism. In fact, the Islands were already welcoming medical guests long before I was involved. I suppose what I saw, & pursued, was the growth of an industry, not just an individual opportunity.

Growth of Medical Tourism

The Cayman Islands are now on the map internationally for medical tourism & I am very proud of the achievement. We have a world-class institution for tertiary cardiology & almost everybody knows somebody who has benefited, or even had their life saved. Many thought it would suppress local doctors & yet we have nearly twice as many local doctors now, & twice as many practices, than when I started in the field. Just like in tourism & financial services, building an industry attracts that industry’s work & grows our economy, something everyone benefits from.

I have always believed in using local construction teams, including second chance programmes to assist the less fortunate. Medical tourism in the Cayman Islands now employs both young & experienced Caymanians. For every one individual that may have had to compete a little harder, many hundreds have benefited in so many ways, both through health & employment.

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Personal Challenges

A short while back, I found myself facing my own health challenges, requiring me to become a health tourist out of need for specialist services. It exposed me to Texas Medical Center, 17 institutions, all competing but all collaborating too to make the campus the most successful medical destination in the World. Every institution benefited from the attraction of patients to the campus as a whole.

And for Houston, which had a fading economy due to over-reliance on oil, it became a powerhouse for growth, now representing 30% of Houston’s GDP and employing hundreds of thousands of staff. In our own way and scale, uniquely Cayman, that is our opportunity – to create a new pillar of GDP and jobs by making the Cayman Islands THE destination for Destination Healthcare.

Personal Promises

With my health challenges, I took a step back for a while & made a promise to my wife of no more major projects. But fast forward to 2020, & shattered tourism, economic stagnation & so many Caymanians facing very tough times, it was one promise I just couldn’t keep.

The Aster Cayman Medcity project is an opportunity to create nearly 1,000 Caymanian jobs, bring $3-400 million USD in construction, drive over $4 billion USD in economic value for the country & provide much needed answers in elderly care. It was just too important to the Cayman Islands to allow it to go somewhere else.

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If Not Here...

I came to be aware of this project because it was in search of a home & the Cayman Islands wasn’t on that list. Aster has a rich heritage in the highest possible quality of care & in medical tourism. If they weren’t going to be here, then they’d be competing with here. Other Caribbean nations have their sights set on our tourism, our financial services & on our medical tourism too.

But with Aster DM Healthcare choosing the Cayman Islands as their Western hemisphere hub, we do indeed get the opportunity, if we embrace it, to become THE destination for Destination Healthcare. So that is my new promise – to diligently work to make that a reality for the Cayman Islands (and to maybe take that rest after that…maybe).

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