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Mother Teresa's Heart Surgeon Enters Medical Tourism Biz

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Mother Teresa may have died from heart trouble, but her cardiologist, Dr. Devi Shetty, is setting up a 2,000-bed "healthcare city" in the Cayman Islands he hopes will attract unwell -- but budget-conscious -- Americans.

According to Reuters, the healthcare city "will cost about $2 billion and encompass a hospital, medical university and assisted-living facility and target American patients and insurance providers seeking deep cost reductions."

Shetty, who is known as a low-cost pioneer in the medical field, believes the facility will draw roughly 50% of its patients from the United States.

"It will be much easier for insurance companies to buy an air ticket and ask them to go to the Cayman Islands and get a heart bypass done and have a two-week beach holiday and come back at perhaps less than 50 percent of the cost," he said.

Mark Mobius, an emerging markets expert at Templeton, believes
Shetty's endeavor will attract significant outside investment. While Shetty is tight-lipped about specifics, JPMorgan Chase (JPM), AIG (AIG), and a private Indian investor already own more than a quarter of Shetty's Narayana Hrudayalaya Private Ltd., a hospital group in Bangalore.

While the average cost for a coronary bypass in the United States comes in at $144,000, Shetty claims he will be able to provide the same service for under $10,000.


Well, for starters, the Caymans recently passed legislation that caps medical negligence claims at $600,000. The other arrow in Shetty's quiver doctor bag?

“You may question their business practices, but there’s no denying that Wal-Mart (WMT) has used the concept of scale to bring down the cost of everyday products,” he told India's Outlook Business magazine in 2009.

Regarding a surgery he recently performed to close two holes in a four year-old girl's heart, Shetty said, "
We could do it virtually free. It is all because of volume."

For better or for worse, perhaps the future of medicine depends on the same tactics Lee Iacocca used to turn around Chrysler. Besides, if Devi Shetty is so skilled with the human heart, he's probably a real natural at re-jetting a carburetor.
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