The Grenada University Project at Mt. Hartman – A Win-Win for Grenadians?

Bru Pearce, the man seeking to single-handily remake Grenada according to his vision, has put forward a plan that would see the development of a university town and medical tourism facilities at the Mt. Hartman Estate and Hog Island.

Pearce’s proposal envisions an expansion of St. George’s University(SGU) as the cornerstone upon which Medical and Education Tourism in Grenada can be built.

Estimated to cost $450 million dollar (US), Pearce’s plan calls for:

  • A 400 bed hospital complex (200 teaching; 200 tourism).
  • 3 and 5 star hotels.
  • housing and service (restaurants, shops, etc) for staff, staff family, and students.
  • A school for the children of staff.
  • Luxury residential development on Hog Island.
  • Development of a Heliport and Terminal for executive jets.

Secondarily, the plan would implement:

  • A School of Environmental Studies,climate change adaptation, permaculture and alternative energy.
  • Expansion of some of SGU’s science programs (vet and marine biology schools).
  • A medical research park.
  • A alternative and complementary medicine facility and school.
  • Retirement and nursing homes.
  • A yacht club, with small craft sailing.
  • Sports facility-dive, squash, tennis, gym, dance, yoga.

The resulting benefits sited are:

  • Improved educational opportunities
  • Jobs across all sectors
  • Opportunities for local businesses
  • Improved healthcare
  • Business and investment opportunities
  • Access to larger student market

In its presentation, Pearce sites the statements from the Government of Grenada’s 2011 budget statement, regarding a focus to establish a Grenada based teaching hospital that would bolster St. George’s University, and limit its reliance on the use of US hospitals for clinical rotations and internships, as corollary to his proposal.

But while the teaching hospital has merit, the potential of medical tourism might warrant additional scrutiny. Notable are the following:

  1. Studies show that claims about income generated from medical tourism are usually speculative, based on estimates, without clear definition and remarkably rounded. Numbers given by some countries and hospitals, regarding the success of their medical tourism product, are substantial exaggerations. But the implied success encourages private investments and national support.
  2. Places with recognized competence in medical tourism are almost always “backyards”, close to the source of medical tourist in richer countries rather than playgrounds. An example of this is the US and Mexico, and the cross boarder travel by European citizens for medical treatment.
  3. Having comfort with and a favorable impression of caregivers and institutions in the host nation is important. For example, US patients might not be less reticent to seek treatment in India or Thailand, because of their experience of being treated by American-trained Indian and South Asian doctors. This sense of trust comes from the opinion that returning health workers have been trained under the same standards as host nation health workers. Studies show that the ability to attract skilled health workers in the diaspora, that have trained in the source nations, is essential to the development of a countries’ medical tourism product.
  4. An established and growing middle class, that demand superior healthcare provide a strong foundation upon which medical tourism can develop. In the few countries with recognized competence in medical tourism, a generalist approach rather than specialism (sought by news comers and smaller countries) has been implemented. Mr. Pearce’s plan indicates a reliance on attracting wealthy foreigners. This strategy will likely require sustained advertising and marketing campaigns. This raises questions about who will be paying.
  5. The presence of major international airline hubs and airlines, and well-developed infrastructure contribute substantially in the development and success of medical tourism. While Mr. Pearce’s proposal included plans for implementing accommodations for a heliport and area for private jets at the international airport, the ongoing challenge Grenada has had generating airlift into the country must be considered when assessing this part of the Pearce plan.

Lastly, but importantly, Grenadians might want to hold a bit of skepticism as to whether they will realize improved healthcare from medical tourism in Grenada, since it has been shown that medical tourism can effect shifts in resources within the “host” country from the local population to profit-generating foreigners. In many countries where implemented, a “dual healthcare” system exist, where sophisticated providers exists to serve expatriates, foreign and wealthy domestic patients, but the services for the local population is rudimentary.

Whatever wealth results from this Medical Tourism, there is little, if any, evidence that it does away with existing economic and social inequities in a developing country like Grenada. Grenada has to ensure it does not heal the world while its people remain at the back of the queue.

Learn more about the Bru Pearce Plan here.

References:

1. Cohen, I. Glenn, 2011. Medical Tourism, Access to Health Care, and Global Justice. The Virginia Journal of International Law, vol. 52

2. Rawlinson, Mary J. 2010. Justice across borders: The case of medical tourism. International Association of Women Philosophers

3. Connell, John, 2006. Medical tourism: Sea, sun, sand and y surgery. Tourism Management, vol. 27

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2 thoughts on “The Grenada University Project at Mt. Hartman – A Win-Win for Grenadians?

  1. Thanks for one’s marvelous posting! I really enjoyed reading it, you could be a great author. I will be sure to bookmark your blog and will eventually come back at some point. I want to encourage you to continue your great work, have a nice day!

  2. I will be conducting some survey style interviews in Grenada on 15th and 16th January 2013 in order to determine how development and marketing of health and wellness tourism could be a successful, inclusive and sustainable economic diversification option for the local people and the grenadian economy. I would be so grateful for some volunteers to express their views and opinions about tourism development and the approach they feel is best for locals and the environment. Please email me at jayderussell@hotmail.com if you are interested in taking part! Many thanks!

    Below is by brief Rationale:

    Traditionally an agricultural economy Grenada has, in the last decade, repositioned tourism as ‘the engine for growth in the foreseeable future’ (Hood 2004). Hurricane Ivan acted as the impetus for economic diversification, with many land owners abandoning agriculture in favour of more hurricane-resilient business opportunities. More frequently local governments are taking decisions to encourage tourism development as a means of boosting the local economy and Government income (Elliott 1996). With adequate planning, appropriate implementation and popular participation, tourism can act as a central industry. It can incorporate and great variety of products and services involving entire industries, professions and individuals, from hospitality businesses to architects, to artists and farmers (Pattullo 1996).
    Two growing niches of the tourism industry, in spite of the recent economic downturn, are cruise travel and spa and health (wellness) tourism. Grenada has already embraced cruise tourism, though there are significant arguments to suggest that this niche delivers marginal benefits to the host community yet contributes a significant amount of environmental degradation and waste (Telfer and Sharpley 2008). In response, this research hopes to evaluate the potential for Wellness Tourism to deliver a more economically rewarding, socially inclusive and environmentally sensitive tourism option for the communities of Grenada. The evaluation will come from research that will seek to:
    • Unveil the growth in wellness tourism
    • Review current trends in wellness tourism
    • Explore the evolution of wellness tourism; traditional spas and contemporary health vacations
    • Determine Grenada’s resources and limitations, including potential impacts
    • Evaluate the sustainability of a wellness tourism industry

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