By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
Medical tourism could give the Bahamian economy an annual “$100 million-plus” boost, a prominent physician said yesterday, adding that stem cell therapy could be a key part of the nation’s thrust into this industry.
Dr Arthur Porter, chairman of a task force established to review the controversial stem cell treatment, and offer recommendations on its use in the Bahamas, told Tribune Business yesterday that its was the future of medicine in the Bahamas and wider world.
“We had a specific discussion about stem cells, but medical tourism is far bigger than that; it’s about a whole range of therapies etc,” Dr Porter said yesterday.
“What we felt was that if we we’re going to embark on something like stem cell therapy, that it should be part of a broader picture where we have the right sort of framework for medical tourism.
“That means we have to have the right legislation, we have to be nimble on an international scale, we have to be able to compete with the other countries who are doing it from a business standpoint. It doesn’t just mean stem cells; it could be a whole range of other therapies.”
Dr Porter added: “When you look at many reports, people are talking about medical tourism bringing in several billion dollars a year worldwide.
“A lot of that is going to pre-established places in south-east Asia, India and in Singapore, but certainly our market here could be $100 million plus per year.
“That’s looking at medical tourism in a broad way. Once you start getting something like that it fosters other sciences, it fosters the physicians, the research labs, the hotels, the economy generally.
“When you look at the industries where the Bahamas has been successful , say the hotel industry we have a whole range of regulations to make that sector move, and maybe we need the same sort of thing if we are embarking on medical tourism in a big way. Perhaps stem cell will be the sharp end of the wedge in terms of getting it done.”
Dr Porter, who presented a report on the task force’s recommendation on stem cell therapy to Minister of Health, Dr Perry Gomez, yesterday, revealed that the committee agreed that neither embryonic stem cell therapy, nor reproductive human cloning, should be done in the Bahamas, but that the use of stem cells from a person’s body should be permitted in this jurisdiction.
“We believe that with the profound implications of stem cell therapy, there should be widespread consultation with the various stakeholder groups that will be involved in making the ultimate decision, so that people are aware of the importance of stem cells, some of the ethical issues and be able to opine in this regard,” Dr Porter said.
“We felt that stem cells will be an important part of the medical tourism thrust, but we also felt the Government needed to review - and broadly review - what is necessary for a successful medical tourism industry. We do have the appropriate legislation, but the legislation has to be state of the art for us to compete with the world.”