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COLUMBIA - The Mayor's Task Force on Medical Tourism meets Tuesday afternoon to begin the discussion on making Columbia destination medical center.

According to the city, the task force's purpose is to make recommendations on improvements to the Columbia Regional Airport, public transportation, short-term housing options and the increase of health care jobs. 

Task force member and Columbia Orthopaedic Group CEO Gene Austin said to bring outside patients to the area, the task force has a few questions to answer today.

"What's the market that we're looking to bring? What's the size of that market? What needs will they have when they come as far as special transportation needs, special accommodations? And then enhancements and jobs and infrastructure all kind of follows as a result of that," Austin said.

The task force will look at identifying the city's key specialty areas to market to the target audience. 

"The most immediate concern will be to figure out what we want people to come to Columbia for. What are our destination services?" Task Force Chair Guy Collier said. 

Collier also said the task force must help the city decide who it will market to: the Midwest, nationally, or otherwise. 

Other items on the agenda include coordinating between hospitals and short-term housing options for families, improving public transportation and the airport, and identifying the best areas to target new health care jobs.

Austin said there's a bottom line the task force must determine.

 "I think the first thing you have to target is, 'What is the message that we're wanting to get out to people outside of Columbia?' So I think if we can identify that target, what is the message, how to best articulate that and focus, then we can begin to work backwards from there," Austin said.

The task force will meet at 4 p.m.

 

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