Medical Tourism Council to be formed.

vlcsnap-2013-08-21-09h42m13s163Belize’s Trade and Investment Service, BELTRAIDE, has been aggressively promoting medical tourism and business process outsourcing (BPO) as the sectors where new jobs will be created. The latter, mostly manifested in the form of call centers that hire hundreds of workers to perform tasks that cost too much in the United States and elsewhere, has taken off, but the former has some issues to iron out. Today there was a workshop in Belize City to take the next step – a council that will manage the process. With more here is BELTRAIDE executive director Nicholas Ruiz.

 

Nicolas Ruiz – Executive Director, BELTRAIDE:

vlcsnap-2013-08-21-09h37m55s8Basically today we have a follow-up activity on the promotion and development of the Medical Tourism Sector in Belize.  Last year we formalized a strategy for the development of the Sector.  One of the main objectives of that strategy was to make sure that we have an association in place.  The Association is primarily private-sector-based.  We feel it’s important to have that, although we want to maintain that very important linkage with Government, especially where policy-making is concerned.  So we have our consultant with us, Mr Massimo Manzi,  who is the President of  a Medical Tourism Council  in Costa Rica, very eminently qualified.  He’s going to be sitting with our doctors, medical practitioners and other stakeholders, to come up with a draft of what the Association would look like, what rules would govern it, the mission, the vision, the objectives, the bye-laws, etcetera.

According to Mr Ruiz, the strategy formulated last year after consultations funded by Compete Caribbean, a facility of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), takes into account Belize’s current problems with healthcare.

Nicolas Ruiz – Executive Director, BELTRAIDE:

vlcsnap-2013-08-21-09h48m28s31Looking at the strategy, it’s evident that we have a lot of advantages, proximity, accessibility, affordability.  We have the human resources, the professional capacity in-country.  Admittedly we need to develop more.  So this is one step forward.  We feel that in dialoguing with the stakeholders through the Association, centralizing everybody, bringing everybody together, we can have a very close interaction with them, knowing what incentive packages need to be in place.  They have said what policies need to be in place.  So this is a very important step forward, because I believe that the association will  certainly be heard, once they organize themselves, will be lobbying for the Sector, with Government, with other entities, ensuring that indeed it’s growing like the business processing outsourcing sector. So those two sectors, we feel, have a lot of rapid and meaningful potential  for Belize, and that is why we are so bent on promoting and developing these sectors.

Nicholas  Ruiz says the quicker the better to get medical tourism as an industry in Belize, off the ground.

Nicolas Ruiz – Executive Director, BELTRAIDE:

vlcsnap-2013-08-21-10h00m38s88As soon as possible! I like to draw parallelisms with the business process outsourcing sector, which is the call centers in their main form.  The good news there is that we foresee that before 2015 we probably would have met the targets we have, coming out from that consultancy for that sector.  So a bit of competition is good.  A bit of learning from that sector is good.  The intention is to get the association formed, so that we can have that discussion with them as to what is the main thing that needs to be done, to get our facilities in place, to get our providers in place, to get certification in place.  If it’s financing, we need to know. We need to work on the policy and legislation  to get that in place.  So the answer to your question is, as soon as possible. 

We have a target date as per the strategy, although that will always be taken into consideration as to what goes on the ground.  We want to get it in place as soon as possible, because we know through studies, through IDB, through different organizations that work us, that is has  a lot of potential.  So we’re trying to harness that, get all the things that need to be in place in place, so that we can get the economic drivers in place, employment, investment, foreign exchange, you name it.  

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