Medical tourism: Shetty hospital acquires new partner

US-based Ascension Health Alliance has joined forces with Dr. Devi Shetty to build the proposed medical tourism facility in Grand Cayman  


A large American healthcare company has partnered with Dr. Devi Shetty’s group of hospitals to create the proposed $2 billion medical tourism “health city” in Cayman. 

Ascension Health Alliance, based in St. Louis, Missouri, signed an agreement, described as a “document of public commitment” with Dr. Shetty in Cayman in early April.  

Despite having no financial involvement in the project, other than offering a variety of duty and work permit waivers, the document was also signed by government representatives, Premier McKeeva Bush and Minister of Health Mark Scotland. 

Ascension is the largest Catholic and non-profit health organisation in the United States. 

Dr. Shetty’s Narayana Hrudayalaya Hospitals of India and Ascension Health Alliance have been in discussions about the Cayman project since the Indian cardiologist signed a memorandum of agreement with the Cayman Islands Government two years ago. Since then, the government has created or amende a number of laws to pave the way for the hospital project to go ahead. 

Anthony Tersigni, president and chief executive officer of Ascension Health Alliance, told a gathering of reporters, government members and business people at the announcement of the deal of 4 April that the two groups were exploring ways to adapt the success of Dr. Shetty Indian hospital model of providing high-quality health care at a low cost.  

Under the agreement, Ascension will own part of the proposed new hospital in Cayman, handling group purchasing, facilities management and biomedical engineering services. Dr. Shetty’s group will run the hospital, which would initially consist of 140 beds, expanding eventually to 2,000 beds over 15 years and catering to medical tourists from the Caribbean, Latin America and the United States. It will also offer tertiary care to patients in Cayman. 

The developers of the project say they plan to break ground in August this year and that the first phase of the hospital will be operational next year. 

Dr. Shetty said the partnership of the two entities would bring strong purchasing and negotiating power to the hospital, enabling the purchase of equipment, drugs and other medical materials at lower costs. “Together, we make a very large group of buyers. We can actually make moderate-sized drug and disposables supply companies supply their products only to us. That will give us significant power of negotiation to reduce the cost,” he said. 

An agreement is already in place with three major medical equipment suppliers to sell the new Cayman hospital equipment at the same price as Narayana pays in India, Dr. Shetty said. “In India, we buy medical equipment at a much lesser price than you pay in America or in the Caribbean,” he said.  

Ascension Health Alliance is a major player in the healthcare system in the United States, managing more than 17,000 beds across 1,400 locations in 21 states and the District of Columbia in the US. The Narayana Hrudayalaya Hospitals of India runs 14 hospitals in 11 cities, with almost 5,600 beds. 

Staffing the hospital should not pose any problems, Dr. Shetty said, despite a worldwide shortage of medical personnel. “Together, we have enough workforce to hire for this hospital in the Cayman Islands and make it a world-class hospital, without putting a single advertisement in the newspaper asking for people to join.” 

However, Dr. Shetty urged people in Cayman to get medical training, as doctors, nurses and technicians, and take up jobs at the hospital in the future.  

He has also joined forces with the University College of the Cayman Islands, which is launching a nursing programme in September.  

Dr. Shetty said the “global crisis” of healthcare, the delivery of which would eventually lead to the bankrupting of countries, as people live longer due to better medical care and innovations in technology.  

He said the hospital in Cayman would be managed in the same way as his hospitals in India, where an eagle eye is kept on everything that is spent, with balance sheets being examined daily. 

Ascension’s Dr. Tersigni said the partnership with Dr. Shetty’s group would benefit Cayman and the rest of the Caribbean, but he said he hoped it would also influence healthcare in the United States, where Dr. Shetty’s approach of low-cost, quality healthcare could be adopted. 

“This joint effort will provide Ascension Health Alliance and its subsidiaries opportunities to examine and learn about different approaches to providing healthcare to all with special attention to those who are poor and vulnerable, focusing on innovative ways to provide high-quality medical care at lower cost,” Dr. Tersigni said. “These learnings then can benefit facilities in the United States and worldwide as we address one of the most challenging periods in our history.” 

Ascension’s man in Cayman will be Dr. David Pryor, the company’s executive vice president. He will lead its clinical involvement in the Cayman Islands hospital project and will work with Dr. Shetty and his team to “test and validate methods of providing high-quality care at a lower cost in a completely new setting,” Dr. Tersigni said. 

Clan Construction, a Cayman-based construction company, was hired earlier this year as the main contractor on the project, which will be built on a 200-acre site in the High Rock area of East End.  

The proposed “health care city” will offer a variety of medical services, including a tertiary care hospital, an educational facility, a biotech park and an assisted living facility. The hospital, once fully operational, will provide open heart/bypass surgery, angioplasty, heart-valve replacement, cancer treatment, bone-marrow transplant, organ transplant and orthopaedics.  


Dr. Devi Shetty gives details of his newly signed deal with Ascension Health Alliance. – PHOTO: NORMA CONNOLLY