[Reprinted: Cayman Compass, 12-14-2020]
Producing homegrown doctors and health workers has become a national security issue in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Dr. Devi Shetty, the celebrated surgeon behind Health City Cayman Islands.
Shetty said his group still aims to build a medical school in Grand Cayman that he believes could help train and inspire the next generation of doctors for the region.
“This is probably not going to be the last pandemic to strike,” he said.
“Every country needs their own doctors, their own medical professionals to take care of your people.”
Shetty was speaking following the release of a new Netflix docuseries, ‘The Surgeon’s Cut’. The four-part series features an hour-long episode, Heart and Soul, about Shetty’s success in revolutionising healthcare in India.
He told the Cayman Compass he wants to help inspire the next generation of medical professionals.
And he believes ensuring there is an adequate number of Caymanian doctors and nurses is a matter of resource-security for the island in the face of potential future health challenges.
He said Cayman and other western countries would not always be able to rely on personnel from overseas to the extent they do now. As wages and living standards improve in developing countries, he believes there will be less incentive for doctors to migrate from places like India to the United States or Cayman.
“High on my wish list is to help young kids in the Caribbean to get excited about being doctors,” said Shetty.
“It is very important that youngsters embrace the medical profession. Once one or two become stars, others will follow.”
The pandemic highlighted national security concerns for many countries. In the face of global equipment shortages, many governments found themselves without key supplies because of a reliance on imports.
The same is true of personnel, says Shetty, speaking to the Compass over Zoom from India.
He said the documentary makers had reached out to him to be part of the series after reading about a letter he had written, in 1997, to thousands of former child patients.
“I had just completed 4,000 surgeries and those children were growing up and I thought I should write to them and explain what their parents went through during their surgery.”
He said it was a novelty in India at that time for the common man to have access to heart surgery. The documentary highlights how Shetty has helped to change that, making access to heart surgery and other critical care affordable and accessible for ordinary people.
“It is about more than just myself as a surgeon. I wanted to help highlight the problems that the common man faces in developing countries in terms of healthcare, especially when it comes to the issue of surgeries.”
Across the world, he said, healthcare costs were still the largest reason for people going bankrupt.
In India, Shetty’s Narayana Health group now performs 14% of the country’s heart surgeries. He said he hoped Health City Cayman Islands could play a role, as it has begun to do, in bringing affordable surgery to less economically advantaged people in this region.