HEART Institute of the Caribbean (HIC), Jamaica’s only heart hospital, is embarking on a multimillion-dollar expansion that will give Jamaicans increased access to first-world cardiovascular care.
The institution, which is also the premier centre of excellence for cardiovascular care in the English-speaking Caribbean, has signed a partnership with AMPC International Health Consultants — a leading global health-care management and hospital development company in Amsterdam — to build an international heart and multi-speciality hospital in Jamaica that will model the likes of the Mayo Clinic and the Cleveland Clinic in the United States.
HIC, the first dedicated heart hospital in the region, also has locations in Mandeville and Ocho Rios.
The project is estimated to cost between US$35 million and US$50 million to complete and will be based in Kingston. However, the exact location is yet to be finalised.
Dr Ernest Madu, founder and consultant cardiologist at HIC, told the Jamaica Observer that cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the number one cause of death and disability in Jamaica and, as a result, it is imperative that more specialist locations are developed.
“It will kill more people than every other health issue. When we talk about cardiovascular disease we are talking about heart disease, we are talking about stroke, we are talking about kidney disease — you see many people going to dialysis that could be prevented. We are talking about vascular disease of the legs. Many of the amputations you see could be prevented,” Dr Madu said.
“That’s why we are partnering with an international consortium that has done this multiple times over. What attracted them to HIC is what HIC has accomplished in Jamaica as a model of how you deliver first-world care in a low resource environment, particularly our open-access model that has a mechanism that ensures that even the poor can get access to our services.”
Gary Lang, senior executive at AMPC and COO at HIC, said AMPC has projects worldwide and seeks to help develop critical services within various markets.
Lang, who has relocated to Jamaica from Dubai, has served as CEO of several hospitals in the USA. He said part of what is attractive in terms of the partnership with HIC is the great potential within Jamaica for highly specialised services and the growth of those services, plus the ability to extrapolate the expertise and resources to other markets.
Further, Lang said over the next two to five years AMPC would be looking to further expand HIC across other markets.
“We would envision a plan over the next two to five years having multiple HICs in different locations, whether that is West Africa or other parts of the Caribbean. We are very excited to be here and see so much potential for these services and other kinds of specialised services that can be conjoined to the heart speciality services,” he said.
The new hospital will feature 75 beds, with 50 being dedicated to heart and vascular disease. The remaining 25 will be dedicated to other speciality areas that will feature on the services menu.
Some services to be introduced include cardiovascular procedures currently not offered locally such as cardiac left ventricular assist devices, transaortic valve replacement — a minimally invasive surgery that avoids cutting the heart open to replace the valve; mitraclip valve repair procedure, and cardiac MRI, which has not been done locally before.
Dr Madu also said the new HIC will be launching a study on cardiac amyloid (stiff heart syndrome), an old disease about which they have been getting more understanding.
Regarding costs to the public to access these services, Dr Madu said HIC has a tiered pricing model to include the full price — the standard rate they expect everyone to pay, especially those sponsored by a third party — and a lower price reserved for patients who do not have access to third party support.
“The tiered pricing means that those people at the bottom of society can be accommodated. To make it even more possible, we have a J$40,000 per year membership programme, which makes members entitled to free access to cardiology consultations and electrocardiograms (ECG) at HIC unlimited for the year,” he said, adding that the model will be expanded with the new hospital to ensure the poorest are accommodated.
Dr Madu also pointed out that the HIC Foundation has subsidised care for indigent patients for many years.
“The HIC Foundation has given over US$100 million in free or subsidised care to indigent patients every year since 2008. When we have patients from the poor communities, Food For the Poor, Missionaries Of the Poor, and Members of Parliament — all of these people, if they send a patient and write that they can’t afford services we have routinely accommodated those patients. We have had people do the most expensive services at zero cost because they are indigent. We cannot do it for everyone, because we wouldn’t survive. If you have insurance we expect insurance companies to honour your premiums, but if you are a poor man living under a bridge and are having a heart attack, we take care of you,” Dr Madu said
Moreover, the HIC frontman said the development is a well-needed sophisticated facility that seeks to level the playing field for access to world-class heart care.
“No life is superior to another and our purpose is to provide this highly sophisticated care to developing countries. Instead of just the very rich getting on private planes and going to Miami, we want to make it possible for ordinary citizens to get what the rich have taken for granted,” Dr Madu said. “That’s the main advantage — that this is now a facility that will be readily accessible to everyone. What we are doing is democratising cardiovascular speciality care so that every citizen at least has access. With this advancement we will finally solve the problem with heart and stroke intervention, among several other things, we hope to do.”