Minister of Tourism, Richard Sealy, (center) and Minister of Health, Donville Inniss, greet one of the delegates at the Caribbean Cardiac Society’s Conference at the Barbados Hilton.

Barbados will seek to capitalise on the billion dollar industry of medical tourism.

This assurance was given last evening by Minister of Tourism, Richard Sealy, as he addressed the 24th Annual Caribbean Cardiology Conference, at Hilton Barbados under the theme "Meeting Emerging Challenges to Cardiovascular Care in the Caribbean".??

Minister Sealy noted that by 2010, medical travel would be a US $40 billion industry with as many as 780 million patients seeking care abroad. He said: "So, we want to ensure that we can benefit from this tremendous burgeoning industry and the only way we can do that is by making sure we have the base of professionals… that is to be found in the region."

Acknowledging that health care was a major area of focus for policy-makers worldwide, he stated, "We [Barbados] have earned a very high reputation for having a fairly exceptional high level of services, particularly in cardiology."

And, he lauded the island and its counterparts, Trinidad and Tobago, Bahamas and Jamaica for offering open heart surgery, for over a decade. ??He added that these small islands were plagued by a lack of resources, but it was "good to see that we can have health care professionals, who can be trail blazers in the region."

The Tourism Minister told the delegates that fora such as the 24th Annual Caribbean Cardiology Conference should be encouraged since they allowed for further exposure to new techniques for the free and liberal exchange of ideas among professionals of the region.??

While acknowledging that the conference was also significant because of its potential for health, wellness and medical tourism, Mr. Sealy said; "Other parts of the world have surged ahead and medical tourism is quite big. But, I think that if we can distinguish ourselves in the field of cardiology to the point where we can have open heart surgery, then we have a very eloquent and complete case why we can promote ourselves worldwide as a region where we can have greater medical tourism.

"We know the case is very clear and many patients are prepared to travel to avoid exorbitant health care costs and long waiting lines that exist in their own countries. They may simply not want their friends and family to see them when they are going through the repair and convalescence of whatever condition they are dealing with," he pointed out.

The island’s Tourism Minister further told delegates that in seeking to obtain the benefits of health and wellness and medical tourism, Barbados would be investing in the necessary infrastructure, such as world class facilities and airlift, along with a range of human resource capacity, including nurses, paramedics and health administrators.

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