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Health care quality in the Caribbean: Jamaica, Cuba, The Bahamas, Dominican Republic and more

Health care quality in the Caribbean: Jamaica, Cuba, The Bahamas, Dominican Republic and more.

We all want access to good health care. Whether it’s preventative measures such as immunisation, the management of ongoing conditions, or critical illness and emergency treatment, everyone wants the reassurance that their mental and physical well-being is in safe hands. This is why individuals and employers alike purchase health insurance when living away from home – either permanently or on assignment of months or years.

Health care in The Caribbean

The Bahamas

Set across a range of islands north of Cuba, The Bahamas is a major tourist hub for Westerners and home to many expats looking to retire in the sun. As a result, it has an excellent standard of medical provision, to the level many foreigners would recognise from home.

Everyone has access to the facilities found in the three main public hospitals — two in the capital, Nassau, and another in Freeport — offering a range of care from maternity to surgery. There are also two private hospitals. On the other islands, medical provision may not be available seven days a week across the network of clinics, although emergency response teams (staffed by volunteers) are in operation. Do your research first and make sure you can cover the cost of being airlifted to a major hospital in an emergency. It’s worth noting there is no public health scheme foreign nationals can contribute to, health insurance is available to cover emergency treatment. Even if you have insurance, you might want to have enough cash with you when you travel, as the hospital may require payment up front. You might also want to ensure your policy covers evacuation or repatriation. While medical provision is quite comprehensive, certain conditions may require treatment elsewhere (such as the U.S.).

The country spends a healthy 7% of its GDP on health, there are nearly 3 doctors per 1,000 inhabitants (putting the country in line with places like the UK and Finland) and the health care system is ranked as 94th in the world by the World Health Organization (WHO) in the World health report published in 2000


With a thriving medical tourism industry, the country has excellent facilities for private patients. The best care is available in the capital city of Havana, while standards in more rural areas vary. Comprehensive insurance can be invaluable. It may be worthwhile ensuring you have enough cash to cover treatment or evacuation, as payment may be required up front. Many medicines aren’t freely available, so you may need to bring them from home (along with a prescription and a letter from your doctor outlining why you need them). The government claims to provide a comprehensive health care system for citizens, but the standard of facilities and availability can be inconsistent.

The performance of Cuba’s provision places the country at no. 39 on the World Health Organization’s league table. There are nearly 7 doctors per 1,000 population — one of the highest ratios in the world - which is a reflection of the high percentage of the country’s GDP spent on health care (11.1%).


The standards in both private and public medical facilities can vary and some may not be up to the expectations of foreign nationals. That said, the best hospitals are around the tourist areas like Montego Bay and the capital, Kingston, and cater adequately for most ailments. The country is home to the University Hospital of the West Indies, 24 public hospitals, and 10 private facilities. While primary health care is delivered through a network of clinics and regional centres.

According to World Health Organization data, the country is 53rd in the world for the effectiveness of its health care system but only has 1 doctor per 2,000 population, which is quite low on a world scale (comparable with countries like Nigeria and Fiji). Looking to the future, this developing country has its sights set on improving life for its citizens, spending 5.4% of its GDP on health care.

Expats might want to consider a comprehensive level of health care insurance and access to cash to pay for treatment if and when up front is required — and possibly enough to cover evacuation or repatriation if necessary.

Dominican Republic

Foreign nationals treated in a private medical facility in the Dominican Republic will find the level of treatment and care available similar to those in developed countries. Standards in other hospitals will vary. In an emergency, the ambulance services is, at best, hit and miss and treatment may need to be paid for up front. Expats might want to take out comprehensive health care insurance and to check whether it covers repatriation or evacuation for some conditions. Contact your health insurance provider as soon as possible if you need treatment and watch out for overcharging.

From a global outlook, the Dominican Republic’s health care system is ranked as 51st in the world for performance, just behind countries like Malaysia and Thailand and there are 1.5 doctors per 1,000 inhabitants, roughly the same as Columbia.

Across the rest of the Caribbean area

With different cultures, governments, political histories and populations, the standards of medical facilities can vary from island to island. The area is home to many expats and good quality health care is available — even if you have to travel to get it. Foreign nationals in the country might want to ensure they have a comprehensive level of health insurance and access to adequate funds to pay for repatriation or evacuation for treatment if necessary.

If you’re moving overseas

For anyone considering a move to another country to live and work, it’s sensible to do some detailed research on the health care system.

You will need to find out:

  • Where are the best hospitals?
  • What access do foreign nationals have to universal health care?
  • What standard of facilities and personnel are available?

And what about insurance? In most cases, this will be compulsory but, in order to ensure your health and safety, what level of cover will you need? Consider whether you might need:

  • Access to a General Practitioner
  • Inpatient and outpatient care
  • Specialist treatment for on-going care and emergency health care provision
  • Evacuation or repatriation if the treatment you need isn’t available locally

Are you looking for expat insurance? Click here to get a quote.

If you’re an employer or broker looking for international Private Medical insurance for clients or staff, you can call us to discuss your needs. Get the right telephone number for your area, here.

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