Saint Lucia Medical Insurance
The tiny Caribbean island nation of St. Lucia is part of the Lesser Antilles, and the city of Castries (population 10,634) is its capital. St. Lucia alternated between British and French colonial rule until it achieved independence in 1979. Although St. Lucia was most recently a British colony, and maintains British common law, the country is also a member of La Francophonie, and 95 percent of the population of 170,000 speaks Creole French. It is considered a middle-income country with GDP per capita of about USD10,000, with tourism and offshore banking making up most of the economy. This focus on service industries came about following a shift away from the historic emphasis of agriculture, mainly sugar cane plantations. St. Lucia’s famous volcanic mountains, the Pitons, are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Interestingly, the country boasts the second highest number of Nobel Laureates (two) per capita in the world, after the Faroe Islands.
Among Caribbean countries, St. Lucia can be considered very healthy. Life expectancy for St. Lucians is 72 years for males and 78 years for females, both figures are slightly below the regional average in the Americas, although this is significantly higher than the global average.
St. Lucians’ robust health is in spite of relatively paltry government spending towards health care services. Total health care expenditure is about USD421 per capita, which is less than one sixth of the regional average, and represents only 5.9 percent of GDP. Government expenditure represents about 66.5 percent of total health spending within the country, with about 2.2 percent of this allocated to social security funds. St. Lucia’s limited private insurance sector makes up only 5.4 percent of total private spending on health care, with most of the remainder coming from out of pocket expenditure. There is one private and one public hospital in St. Lucia; a third hospital burned down in 2009.
Thanks to an excellent immunisation programme, St. Lucia currently has no reported cases of diphtheria, Japanese encephalitis, measles, mumps, pertussis, polio, rubella and tetanus. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Tuberculosis rates in the country are very low, with only 8 cases per 100,000 people; less than one third of the regional average, and less than one twentieth of the global rate of prevalence.
Basic health care services are widely utilised throughout St. Lucia, with 96 percent of births attended by a skilled health professional. 99 percent of 1 year olds receive measles immunisation, and 84 percent smear-positive tuberculosis treatment; each of these figures is higher than the regional average for the Americas. Nearly all of St. Lucians have access to improved drinking water sources and sanitation facilities.
Road traffic accidents are one of the leading causes of injury and death in St. Lucia, with existing speed limits and drink driving regulations not strongly enforced. As anywhere, seatbelts should be worn by all auto passengers; motorcyclists must wear helmets.
Given St. Lucia’s tropical climate and natural amenities, it is increasingly becoming a destination for travellers seeking upscale holistic health resorts. There are several hot springs resorts, and natural mineral springs, with purported health benefits which cater to the thousands of cruise ship passengers passing through the island each year.
Before visiting St. Lucia, a visit to a physician or clinic specialising in travel medicine is highly recommended. Routine vaccinations should be updated, including: measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus (DPT) and poliovaccine, as well as hepatitis A and B and typhoid; rabies is also recommended for those expected to come into contact with undomesticated animals, particularly bats. Gastrointestinal discomfort is probably the top health problem for travellers; over the counter anti-diarrhoea medicine is recommended. Travellers should also ensure that their regular prescription medicines are up to date. Sun protection, including broad-brimmed hats, long sleeved clothing, sunglasses, sun block and drinking adequate bottled water are all recommended in St. Lucia’s tropical climate.
Dengue fever (or “breakbone fever”) is relatively common to the region and is transmitted by mosquito bites. There is no vaccine for the disease, although exposure to one type of bite may provide future immunity to the condition. Treatment includes rehydration for milder cases, and intravenous fluids and blood transfusions for more severe cases. While the disease can be asymptomatic or cause only a slight fever or rash, serious cases have been linked to neurological disorders, heart and liver failure and death. Other insect-borne diseases which may affect travellers to the Caribbean region include, malaria (although this is not common), leptospirosis, ciguatera poisoning and histoplasmosis.
Even though St. Lucia is a wealthy country with a relativley well-funded health care system, health care resources in remote areas can be very poor and there are only two hospitals. Hence, extra precautions must be made before making a trip to St. Lucia. Given the limitations of local private health insurance, special arrangements must be made before travel, such as purchasing a comprehensive international health insurance policy. Emergency evacuation is often required for situations requiring serious medical attention. Evacuation usually requires travel to the mainland United States, which has the world’s highest health care costs, so insurance and other arrangements should be planned in advance.
If you are planning to visit the Caribbean and St. Lucia is on your itinerary, Pacific Prime is available to assist with your travel health insurance needs. Our experienced teams worldwide are able to provide a free consultation anytime 24 hours a day, with options for individual travellers, families and tour groups. Our policies cover medical services including: dental, maternity, specialist consultation, transportation, inpatient services and more. Contact a Pacific Prime adviser today for more health insurance information.