Over the past few years, healthcare (regulations, facilities and practitioners) has played a more prominent role in the Cayman Islands due to the ongoing Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Cayman is fortunate to have over 200 registered healthcare facilities, including pharmacies, laboratories, physician practices and therapy clinics, over 700 registered practitioners and numerous private specialists. The combined work of all these faculties has helped keep Cayman’s community safe during these unprecedented times, providing access to vaccinations and crucial medical care.
2022 saw continued innovation and major developments in the health and wellness community across both public and private sectors. In the public sphere, the Health Services Authority (HSA) expanded its range of services by opening a new specialist clinic at Smith Road Medical Centre (150 Smith Road), offering services including general surgery, ENT, urology, internal medicine, pain management, chiropractic, neurosurgery, complementary and alternative approaches to medicine (CAM) and more. This new facility is a beneficial introduction to Cayman’s medical field and refers to old holistic and naturopathic approaches to medicine on which so many generational Caymanians have been reliant.
HSA has also opened a new pharmacy, cardiology clinic, general practice, public health clinic and additional phlebotomy laboratory, all located within the Smith Road Medical Centre. They’ve also outfitted their waiting rooms with ergonomic seating designed for seniors and patients with mobility issues, ensuring patients feel comfortable in a nurturing, aesthetically pleasing environment.
HSA’s new Cayman Islands Molecular Biology Laboratory (CIMBL) will perform diagnostic genome sequencing to help advance medical treatment and outcomes for patients in the Cayman Islands. A major advantage of this new service is its local availability, resulting in the reduction of time, cost and inconvenience currently associated with sending samples overseas. It also removes the issue of having to undergo expensive medical travel.
A new telemedicine robot has also been added to the Little Cayman Clinic to give patients and staff the experience and familiarity of a face-to-face encounter with the HSA’s remote physicians during initial exams, treatments and during post-procedural follow-ups.
Furthermore, at the Cayman Islands Hospital, HSA are prioritising a reduction in their energy consumption and carbon footprint by spending approximately $2 million on green investments. By installing energy-efficient thermal windows, a solar photovoltaic system, four advanced chillers, LED lighting and a hospital recycling programme, it is predicted that such initiatives will provide greater sustainability in the public health sector, whilst also benefitting the patient experience at the HSA.
In the private sector, we are seeing similar interest in healthcare facilities wanting to prioritise inclusivity and accessibility for all patients across the Cayman Islands. For instance, Health City Cayman Islands, which established a 110-bed hospital in East End in 2014, has broken ground on a new US$100 million super-speciality hospital in Camana Bay. The new facility will feature a specialised cancer care centre, neonatal intensive care unit, emergency pavilion, critical care unit and emergency multi-speciality programme, including an expansion on robotic-assisted surgery, which was introduced to the Island by Health City for the first time last year. Parts of the new hospital, like the radiotherapy unit, are expected to open at the beginning of 2023, while the entire project is slated for completion by the end of the year. This new location will cement Grand Cayman as a medical tourism destination in the Caribbean, being the first in the region to offer services like bone marrow transplantation, CAR-T Cell therapy and a one-of-a-kind NICU. Over the next 10 years, the owners aim to construct a 2,000-bed facility with two hotels and a residential community.
Furthermore, plans have been announced for a US$350 million medical tourism hospital: Aster Cayman Medcity. This hospital will be constructed in three phases. Phase one will focus on a 150-bed hospital in West Bay with tertiary and quaternary care. Quaternary care relates to super specialised treatments. Phases two and three will follow years later, incorporating assisted and independent living facilities, with 100 units each. The final phase is slated to take place around seven years after the hospital is operational and will involve the construction of a medical university and the expansion of the hospital up to 500 beds.
Such initiatives will provide more jobs for residents in the healthcare field; local developer, Gene Thompson, predicts nearly 2,000 positions will need filling, both directly and indirectly, and Caymanians would be given precedence with construction roles.
The new facility will target the 1.4 million medical tourists who travel overseas for healthcare from the US annually, along with patients from Canada and other Caribbean Islands.
Services around mental health have also continued to grow. Last summer, a new mental health hub created specifically for children and adolescents opened at the Cayman Islands Hospital. The facility, which is run in partnership with the Alex Panton Foundation, is open 24/7 and offers walk-in assistance for youth who need immediate care.
In East End, a larger inpatient mental health facility, Sea Change, is set to open early this year after COVID-19 caused building delays in 2022. The project, which is spearheaded by Dr Marc Lockhart, will include nine cottages, each housing up to six people. The CI$15 million, 15-acre facility will help fill a critical gap in Cayman’s long-term mental health care offerings.
COVID-19 in the Cayman Islands
In March 2020, at the start of the global Coronavirus pandemic, the Cayman Islands government ordered a national lockdown that lasted for three consecutive months. This ‘stay-at-home’ order led to the closure of hotels, restaurants, schools and non-essential businesses across the Islands. Flights were very limited, offered only at first to returning residents, Caymanians and work permit holders.
Although the lockdown had a significant impact on the tourism industry, it yielded great results and the Cayman Islands managed to remain COVID-free for over a year. During this time, the government also implemented a successful vaccination programme, and most of Cayman’s population is now double vaccinated.
At the time of publishing, 95% have received one dose, 92% have received two and 36% have received their booster.
Like many countries across the globe, Cayman’s government implemented a phased border reopening to help slow the spread of COVID-19. At the time of publishing, all of Cayman’s major Coronavirus restrictions have been removed. As of August 2022, travellers to the Islands are no longer required to provide a pre-arrival COVID-19 test, apply for travel via Travel Cayman, quarantine upon arrival and be vaccinated prior to arriving. The mask mandates have also been removed, including on flights in-bound to Cayman. However, individual businesses and healthcare facilities have the right to implement their own mask mandates as desired, so keeping a few masks on-hand is still recommended.
For those on-Island who test positive for COVID-19 via a lateral flow test, it is no longer necessary to complete a confirmation PCR test at an official Health Services Authority testing clinic, however you are still encouraged to report your positive LFT result through the Cayman Islands Government website.
If an individual tests positive, they are required to isolate for a period of no less than seven days. However, it is no longer necessary to take an exit PCR test upon the completion of this isolation period.
If you are sharing accommodation with someone who has tested positive, you may continue socialising, working and attending school, however, as a courtesy to others in the community you should take a LFT test if you begin to feel unwell, and isolate if you receive a positive LFT.
Since the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic over 31,000 cases of COVID-19 have been recorded in the Cayman Islands, along with 37 deaths. Although, at the time of publishing, there are no entry requirements, the ever-changing nature of the pandemic means that Public Health will continue to monitor the situation in the Cayman Islands closely and enforce regulations as they see fit. If you are planning on travelling to Cayman, make sure you are up to date on the latest COVID-19 information. Visit www.caymanresident.com/health/health-advisories