Melissa Juried Kriebel
Perfect beaches, immaculate vibes, and good food are what come to mind when you picture the Caribbean. Maybe you think of the celebrities – athletes and artists from the region who have gone on to impact the world. Maybe you think of hurricanes.
The Caribbean is regularly bombarded with torrential rain and violent winds every hurricane season. But, many never consider the healthcare on offer. Those that do might imagine the services to be primitive, which is at odds with the relaxed, island, close-to-nature depiction in media. However, nothing could be further from the truth. While some medical facilities are understaffed, the Caribbean regularly churns out some leading medical professionals across a variety of fields.
Here is a list of the top three Caribbean islands with the best medical care.
All healthcare is free in Cuba. There are no private hospitals or clinics. Cuba has produced many world-class doctors who have spearheaded many life-changing developments.
In 1881, Carlos Juan Finlay discovered that mosquitoes were the disease carriers of what would be known today as Yellow Fever, forever changing how we think about contagious diseases.
In the 1950s, the number of doctors per thousand in Cuba ranked above many of its European contemporaries including Britain, France, and the Netherlands. In 1965, Cuba became the first Latin American country to legalize abortion. Its doctors’ work in the field of infant mortality is particularly lauded with the country reporting 4.83 deaths per 1,000 live births. Cuba ranks well below the United States’ 6.0 deaths and just ahead of Canada’s 4.8.
Despite operating under a stringent United States blockade for much of the 21st century, Cuba has remained on the cutting edge of a variety of medical advancements. One such is CimaVax, a drug used to treat lung cancer. The drug is so effective that many US citizens defied the travel embargo that was enforced at the time.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Cuban researchers developed two vaccines and boast one of the highest vaccination rates in the world. Also, each year foreigners travel to Cuba in the thousands to receive treatment for maladies including eye complications, neurological complications, cosmetic surgery, and addiction treatment.
The eastern Caribbean island of Barbados provides universal access to medical care for its citizens. The small country boasts eight polyclinics and five geriatric hospitals, in addition to multiple childcare facilities. The Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) in the parish of Saint Michael, is outfitted with modern amenities and provides specialized care in the areas of gynecology, pediatrics, obstetrics, cardiac surgery, plastic surgery, psychotherapy, radiology, radiography, and ophthalmology. The QEH has achieved gold-level accreditation from Accreditation Canada, an international healthcare assessment body.
Also, Barbados has one of the higher life expectancy statistics in the region, with men estimated to live for 79 years and women for 82.
The archipelago nation of the Bahamas has made great strides in overhauling its healthcare services by opening large-scale, state-of-the-art hospitals. The Princess Margaret Hospital in the capital city of Nassau can hold over 400 beds and the Memorial Hospital in Freeport tops out at above 100.
A national health insurance program was established in 2017 to further lower the barriers to affordable healthcare. Bahamian citizens, through this program, can access healthcare for no upfront cost. Even without this program, comparable procedures in the United States can often cost 20-30% more.