Thinking of moving to the Caribbean, but concerned about the availability of good quality healthcare? Fear not, internationally-accredited facilities and medical care of a high caliber are accessible on many islands.
Here are 7 destinations with some of the best clinics and hospitals in the Caribbean.
Medical care in The Bahamas is widely considered to be among the best available in the Caribbean. Standards are generally very high and staff are well trained.
There are two main public hospitals and two major private hospitals plus numerous health centers and clinics across the country. The main public hospitals include the 400+ bed Princess Margaret Hospital in Nassau (New Providence) and the 100+ bed Rand Memorial Hospital in Freeport (Grand Bahama). These facilities provide legal residents with quality healthcare which is provided free at the point of delivery. Healthcare for non-residents however can be costly, so it is important to have comprehensive medical insurance in place.
Nassau’s modern private hospitals – Doctors Hospital and Lyford Cay Hospital – are both highly regarded.
The 72-bed Doctors Hospital provides a full range of inpatient and outpatient services and has a satellite facility called Doctors Hospital West which is located at the western end of New Providence. Accredited by Joint Commission International (JCI) since 2010, the hospital describes itself as “the most modern acute care privately owned healthcare facilities in the Caribbean” with “more than 200 highly trained and dedicated physicians” on its staff.
The 12-bed Lyford Cay Hospital (which incorporates the Bahamas Heart Institute) provides comprehensive medical care and specialized services in cardiology, internal medicine, and family practice and gynecology.
Medical facilities in the Out Islands of The Bahamas tend to be more limited. There are small government clinics in the major settlements, but serious cases are generally transferred to hospitals in Nassau, Freeport or Miami by air ambulance.
Medical facilities in Barbados offer some of the highest levels of care in the English-speaking Eastern Caribbean region. There is one public hospital, one private hospital plus several private clinics across the island.
Barbados’s primary public acute care medical facility is the 600-bed Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) located in the capital Bridgetown. QEH offers a range of medical, diagnostic and treatment services which are provided without charge to all Barbadian nationals and permanent residents. Services include minimal invasive surgery, urology, ENT (ear, nose, and throat), obstetrics and gynecology, cardio-thoracic, orthopedic, dental, pediatrics, ophthalmology, and neurosurgery. It is also an accredited teaching hospital affiliated with the University of the West Indies (Cave Hill campus). QEH operates to high international standards and has been awarded international accreditation at the gold level by Accreditation Canada.
The Bayview Hospital, a small private hospital with over 80 physicians holding practicing privileges, is located on the outskirts of Bridgetown. Established in 1989, the hospital is a member of the Medical Tourism Association. It features 3 operating theaters, 2 delivery rooms, 8 private rooms, 3 semi-private rooms and a new 2 bed state-of-the-art Intensive Care Unit opened in 2018. It offers a variety of services including Allergy Testing and Treatment, Obstetrics & Gynecology, General Surgery, Internal Medicine, ENT Surgery, Orthopaedic Surgery, Cosmetic and Reconstructive Surgery, Urologic Surgery, Pediatrics and Interventional Radiology.
With a network of public and private hospitals, General Practitioners, health centers and specialized medical practices throughout the archipelago, medical facilities in the Cayman Islands are generally of a very high standard. There are 3 major hospitals on Grand Cayman plus the 18-bed Faith Hospital on Cayman Brac which serves the smaller sister islands of Cayman Brac and Little Cayman.
Of the 3 large hospitals, the principal public hospital is the full service, 124-bed Cayman Islands Hospital in the capital George Town. This facility offers a comprehensive range of in-patient and out-patient services for most routine medical problems, 24-hour accident and emergency service and has a state-of-the-art Decompression chamber.
The other 2 major hospitals on Grand Cayman are both private, including the 18-bed CTMH Doctors Hospital (formerly the Chrissie Tomlinson Memorial Hospital) in George Town which specialises in medical and surgical care and tertiary care hospital Health City Cayman Islands.
Established by heart surgeon Dr Devi Prasad Shetty, Health City Cayman Islands in East End is the largest hospital in the Caribbean to have been awarded the Gold Seal of Approval by Joint Commission International (JCI), an international accreditation organization. This state-of-the-art hospital specializes in medical, surgical, diagnostic and therapeutic services including adult cardiology, pediatric cardiology, adult and pediatric cardiac surgery, anesthesiology, orthopedic surgery, pulmonology, pediatric endocrinology, neurology, neurosurgery, medical oncology, urology, critical care services, spinal surgery, bariatric surgery, colorectal surgery, and diagnostic services. It is also currently developing the Caribbean’s first comprehensive cancer care centre which is expected to be completed by December 2019.
While the quality of medical care in the Cayman Islands is, for the most part, very good, for specialized care that is unavailable patients may be transferred or referred overseas for treatment, often to hospitals in the USA.
Finally, it should also be noted that medical treatment in the Cayman Islands can be costly so be sure to have comprehensive medical insurance in place or sufficient funds to cover the cost of any required medical care up front.
Turks & Caicos Islands
There are medical facilities both large and small in the Turks & Caicos Islands, including several public and private clinics.
The level of medical care has improved significantly since the opening of the Turks and Caicos Islands Hospital in 2010, which comprises the Cheshire Hall Medical Centre on Providenciales and the Cockburn Town Medical Centre on Grand Turk. Operated by Interhealth Canada Ltd through a Public-Private Partnership agreement, the Turks and Caicos Islands Hospital is the only secondary-acute public healthcare facility in the Turks and Caicos Islands. It is also one of very few medical facilities in the Caribbean to be accredited at the highest (Diamond) level by Accreditation Canada International (ACI). The hospital offers a range of services including Accident and Emergency care, General Surgery, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Orthopedics, Family Practice, Medical Oncology, Internal Medicine, Secondary Dentistry, Acupuncture and Outpatient Hemodialysis.
While health care has improved substantially, serious conditions may still require relocation overseas, usually to neighboring countries or to Miami.
French Caribbean – Martinique, St Barts & St Martin
As an overseas department (region) of the French Republic, healthcare in Martinique is considered to be among the best available in the Caribbean. The quality of medical care is comparable to the standard in mainland France (which is ranked first in the World Health Organization’s Ranking of the World’s Health Systems).
Doctors, emergency services and pharmacies are all widely available and there are well-equipped hospitals and clinics across the island, including the UHM / CHU (University Hospital of Martinique / Le Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Martinique) which incorporates 7 separate medical facilities: the Pierre Zobda Quitman Hospital, the Maison de la Femme, de la Mère et de l’Enfant, the Emma Ventura Center, the Albert Clarac Hospital, the Lamentin Bourg Hospital, the Mangot Vulcin Hospital and the Louis Domergue Hospital. With 570 beds, the Pierre Zobda Quitman Hospital is the largest in the group and specializes in intensive care, visceral surgery, neurosurgery, cardiovascular surgery, orthopedic and traumatological surgery.
An extra benefit – EU citizens can access Martinique’s public healthcare system free of charge or for a reduced cost (a flat-rate contribution of €18 plus a daily hospital charge or a 20% patient contribution) via the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). Nationals of non-EU countries may have to pay fees in advance and should therefore keep all receipts to reclaim money from health insurance providers.
Healthcare in St Barts and St Martin is also of a high standard. On St Barts there is a small hospital in the capital Gustavia – Hospital De Bruyn – and two pharmacies: one in Gustavia and one in St Jean. However, services may be more limited and some treatments may only be available in Martinique.
On St Martin there is one hospital on the French side of the island (the Medical Center of Saint Martin LC Fleming / Centre Hospitalier LC Fleming de Saint Martin in the capital Marigot) and one on the Dutch side of the island (St Maarten Medical Center East of Philipsburg in the Cay Hill area). Both are small but well equipped.
Costa Rica is widely recognized as offering some of the best health care in Central America. While medical facilities in rural areas can be limited, the standard of medical care of in the capital San José is generally very high. It’s no wonder that in the region of 40,000 medical tourists head to Costa Rica each year.
There is a government-run universal healthcare system called Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (Caja) which can be accessed by all Costa Rican nationals as well as legal residents paying a monthly fee.
The public healthcare system sits alongside a high quality and relatively affordable private healthcare system. There are three major private hospitals in San José, including Hospital La Católica in San José-Guadalupe, Hospital Clínica Bíblica and Hospital CIMA San José in Escazú. The latter two are both accredited by US-based certification body Joint Commission International (JCI).
Hospital Clínica Bíblica offers various medical services and facilities including maternity, clinical laboratory, vaccination centre, 24-hour pharmacy, and preventive medical check-ups. It was the first hospital in Central America to be accredited by JCI, is a member of the Medical Tourism Association and was counted among the top 10 clinics and hospitals in Latin America (and first in Central America) in América Economía magazine’s annual rankings. In the next few years the high quality of care available from Hospital Clínica Bíblica is expected to be made available in other parts of the country. In addition to the main hospital in the capital, Clínica Bíblica has plans to open three additional facilities in Santa Ana, Heredia and Tres Ríos west of Cartago.
Hospital CIMA San José offers various services including surgery services, intensive care, gynaecology and obstetrics, neonatal services, emergency services, diagnostic services and dental services. Hospital CIMA San José has also been accredited by JCI since 2008.
In addition to the main hospitals there are also multiple clinics and medical facilities in the coastal areas popular with overseas visitors, many of which offer 24-hour care with bilingual staff on call and specialists visiting weekly.
The standard of medical care in Mexico is generally high, although services in more remote areas can be limited.
There is a public healthcare system organized by the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS / Instituto Mexicano de Seguro Social) which provides Mexican nationals and legal foreign residents employed in Mexico with subsidized medical care.
Alongside the public healthcare system, there is also a private healthcare system which most foreign nationals tend to opt for. There are private hospitals offering good quality medical care across the country, including two hospitals in Cancún (Quintana Roo) on Mexico’s Caribbean coast which have international accreditation.
Galenia Hospital has accreditation from Joint Commission International (JCI) as well as from Accreditation Canada at the Diamond level and is a member of the Medical Tourism Association.
Also accredited by JCI, Amerimed Hospital Cancún offers a range of routine and 24-hour emergency services. Medical specialties include Angiology and Vascular Surgery, Cardiology, Gastroenterology, Gynecology and Obstetrics, Internal Medicine, Neonatology, Neurology, Dentistry, Oncology, Pediatrics and Rheumatology.
Better Safe Than Sorry
While standards vary from island to island and from facility to facility, it is certainly possible to access good quality medical care in the Caribbean. Nevertheless, whichever destination you are headed for, it would be advisable to ensure you have comprehensive health insurance in place. Furthermore, bear in mind that travel either within the region or to your home country may be required in some cases, should expertise in any particular condition or treatment not be available. You should therefore ensure that sufficient funds are available should travel for specialist care be required.