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Date: 02 May, 2017
Source: The Nation Newspaper

The Medical Fertility Centre (BFC) has been the island’s leading proponent of medical tourism for the past 15 years, annually attracting hundreds of visitors from the United States, United Kingdom and the Caribbean. The Eastern Caribbean’s lone internationally accredited fertility facility has put Barbados on the map, and is now helping more Barbadians and non nationals alike to have families.

The centre provides egg and embryo freezing, sperm injection, ovulation induction, and intra-uterine insemination. Patients not only receive internationally recognised and accredited treatment, but also spend holidays in Barbados while seeing professionals at the BFC as part of a special package deal.

Medical tourism is one of the areas of Barbados’ services economy that needs to be paid some serious attention. That’s the view of Dr. Juliet Skinner and Anna Hosford, co-founders of the Barbados Fertility Centre. They want to see other health-care stakeholders jump on the medical tourism bandwagon as well, and engage in cluster marketing, which would allow the country to better advertise itself as a provider of varied medical care to persons also wishing to travel to a holiday destination.

“The fringe tourism markets can only improve, and it’s them that can help protect the ones which are under threat,” Skinner, the centre’s consultant gynaecologist, told the SUNDAY Sun in a recent interview.

She believes medical tourism remains the reason the centre’s doors have remained open over the years, and other medical departments need to follow suit.

“Without medical tourism, it would not have been financially feasible to have an IVF facility,” Skinner admits. “People thought this would have taken away from local tourism, but it’s the opposite. It adds to it.”

Hosford said that Barbados’ reputation as an island paradise was at the forefront of the country becoming a medical tourism leader.

“Barbados sells itself,” the Irish clinic director said. “The island is so attractive, and then if you can provide that combined with good medical care, that’s a complete package.”

“When we first set this up we had huge Government support and they saw our vision. What we would like to see is other medical tourism products coming to Barbados. It has so much potential for all the reasons Barbados sells itself.”

Skinner said the BFC had been the medical tourism flagship carrier for a long time, but that needed to change. “There are areas like orthopaedics, cosmetics, which can make their mark.”

Hosford said collaboration is the key to Barbados making a bigger dent in medical tourism.

“The future is private medical tourism bodies and hospitals coming here in collaboration with the Government and bring a joint view,” she added.

The pair said they believe customers, including those who have returned for repeat cycles if not successful in getting pregnant the first time around, believe in the BFC mostly because of individualised care, and that had allowed the facility to prosper.

“We are competing with the world. These people can go almost anywhere for this treatment, and they have chosen Barbados.”

“It’s about 15 per cent from Barbados, and the other 85 per cent from overseas,” Skinner revealed about their customer base. “Overall the numbers have increased because our clinic is successful, and more people have shared that both locally and regionally.”