How much of your growth strategy is aligned with Vision 2030?
We are trying to advance the cooperation between the private sector and the public sector in terms of providing healthcare, and this is a key part of Vision 2030. We support the Ministry of Health's goals, which call for the government to become more actively involved in regulation and oversight rather than ownership and operations of healthcare facilities. I see great opportunity to bridge gap in providing care, including shortages in beds and manpower to operate medical facilities in Medina by implementing this vision; however, the mechanism is still in need of adjustment and development. Through our monthly meetings with the government, we ensure that our strategies and operations are highly coordinated. It will take time to implement all these ambitions, but the most important issue is the development of a clear plan of action. The government has introduced nine initiatives and areas of operation for privatization, but there are still issues that need to be ironed out. The government needs to figure out how it wants the private sector to begin carrying out its initiatives. We need a clear vision for how we are to proceed. The government still needs enact legislation that makes the tender processes clear. For instance, we are currently preparing a plan for operating the new Madinah General Hospital (500 beds) with our Canadian and Malaysian partners; however, unclear and bureaucratic procedures are hindering progress. The government wants to privatize, but it still needs to develop a framework for how to do it.
To what extent are you targeting Hajj and Umrah pilgrims, and other international visitors?
We are interested in offering our services to pilgrims coming into Medina performing Hajj and Umrah. We tend to make contracts with Hajj and Umrah companies, which allow us to integrate pilgrimage travel services with medical services. These people opt to receive medical treatment in Medina for financial and spiritual reasons. We want to focus on these types of projects to expand awareness about our healthcare system, but some legislation needs revision and simplification for us to be able to effectively implement this.
What are your overall expectations for the year ahead?
We have great ambitions for 2017 emerging from our strength as a key player in reforming the healthcare sector in Saudi Arabia. As a family business, we need to recruit the right people to take this family group to the next level. In terms of collaboration with ministry, we have concerns regarding taking this collaboration to next level. These include clear privatization plans, well-defined mechanisms for hospitals operations, well-defined national healthcare model, and accelerated payment system for ministry-sponsored patients receiving care in private hospitals. Also, it is important to maintain the relationships and boundaries between care providers and insurance companies to ensure an effective financing system to avoid liquidity risks. On the international side, in 2016, we have tried to develop partnerships with firms abroad. We need to attract global partners in healthcare to work with us in Saudi Arabia. We had meetings in Malaysia and North America to form collaborations with institutions in these countries regarding potential partnerships in hospitals management and operation. We went to Accreditation Canada International to receive international accreditation. We also have promising collaborations in progress with institutions in Turkey. We want to develop a consortium that includes international hospitals. Looking ahead, before we expand we need to develop financing channels beyond the company. If we have a long-term vision and want to maintain our share, we have to be willing to trade equity for new investors or partners. We can expand our vision and our operations if we are willing to look to new sources for investment and partnerships that could reflect on a better quality of life in the region.