Elio Wong Lama

Elio Wong Lama

Manager, Grupo Hospitalario Kennedy
Francisco Cepeda

Francisco Cepeda

General Manager, Hospital de los Valles
While Ecuador is behind some of its neighbors in regard to medical procedures and possible medical tourists, it is making great strides in the right direction to catch up.

What do you see as your role in Ecuador's healthcare system for the longer term?

FRANCISCO CEPEDA Our vision at Hospital de los Valles is to be a teaching hospital with centers of reference for a few different specialties like pediatric care, intensive care, and cancer care. In two years, we hope to inaugurate the cancer center in alliance with a foreign partner specializing in cancer treatment. Our vision over the next 10 years is to develop two or three other centers of reference in combination with the teaching hospital. We hope to achieve international accreditations of quality and safety for patients, which is why our partnership with Johns Hopkins is important. Achieving all of this will take patience and hard work.

ELIO WONG LAMA Through the Hospital Universatario, a university medical facility, we offer specialized training to our physicians. It is large, with about 500 doctors, and we offer opportunities to study abroad for a year or two and then return. Our vision is to expand our operations in other cities on the coast, for example to establish facilities in Manta or Machala, and to integrate these new centers with the one in Guayaquil. We aim to concentrate on certain specific areas such as heart disease with a new catheterization lab, imaging coming from a new MRI, heart and others transplant surgery, clinical medicine, urology, and four new operating rooms, among others. We have been focusing our efforts on five or six fields that are not catered for in other places.

What can Ecuador do to develop a medical tourism industry?

FC I think it is difficult for Ecuador to compete in medical tourism because we are so far behind countries such as Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, or Colombia. In Ecuador, the focus is on internal medical tourism. Other provinces do not have the same quality of hospitals as we do. Right now, many people feel they should travel abroad to have good treatment. First, we need to focus on showing people that they can get quality treatment here in Ecuador. Then, we can look abroad for patients.

EWL The Ministry of Health has adopted the correct strategy to deal with the industry. It is gradually standardizing and classifying all the medical facilities in the country. It is important to bring these clinics and health centers up to a certain standard of quality in order to remain attractive for health tourists. Most of the private facilities are sufficiently qualified with physicians, well trained in their specialties.

Your aim is to become the “Johns Hopkins of Ecuador." What challenges do you face in doing that?

FC To be a teaching hospital, it is important to have good physicians who like teaching and can earn a good salary by both teaching and practicing medicine. This is not a model that exists in Ecuador. We are creating it. Our medical director traveled to Johns Hopkins in April 2014 to learn about this model so that we can apply it here. In many places, such as the US, the focus is on the hospital. People go to Johns Hopkins or to the Mayo Clinic because of the reputation of the hospital. They know the hospital is good, and, therefore, they believe it will have high-quality physicians. In Ecuador, however, the focus is on the physician. You often have a well-known physician that works at two or three hospitals. We need to change this, because it is the hospital that implements the procedures and protocols to ensure safety and quality levels. It is hard to change this way of thinking in Ecuador, but it is our challenge.

One of the features of your new expansion project is a hotel for relatives of patients. What is the motivation for including that?

EWL Approximately 10% of our patients come from outside the city, mostly from the coastal region. Sometimes treatments for these people and also for older people require more time. Many people mistakenly think that when you are in the hospital for more days, the hospitals make more money. In fact, when a patient stays in the hospital for one or two weeks, we are losing our resources. In response to this, we have developed the concept of running a hostel where patients can pay to have medium-length stays of a few weeks. In this way, they will have shelter, and will be near the hospital so can visit their doctor once or twice a day, and can get seen to by their nurse. In Alborada, we are building two new facilities, one has offices for physicians, and one rooms that can be rented by the hospital, or used for long-term patient stays.