RUBEN NAIDOO

Mozambique 2020 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Ruben Naidoo, General Manager of Lenmed Maputo Private Hospital, on over 35 years of operations, unique services, and dealing with the pandemic.

With almost a decade in the Mozambican market, how would you describe Lenmed's experience in Mozambique?

With over 35 years in healthcare, Lenmed is the one of the largest private healthcare group in South Africa. The group started in Lenasia and currently have 11 hospitals, two of which are out of South Africa (in Botswana and Mozambique). We entered Mozambique in 2009-2010 and opened in 2012, with a USD45-million investment, fully owned by Lenmed South Africa. The rationale behind opening in Mozambique was to serve the oil and gas industry and the growing population of expats. When I took over as General Manager, a currency devaluation and financial crisis drove a shift in our business toward serving local and long-term expats, which represent a larger spectrum market. The hospital is an impressive structure, built on 29,000sqm equipped with state-of-the-art facilities and machinery fully up to international standards. For this reason, we are now looking into obtaining hospital accreditation. In terms of performances, the hospital has been stable in terms of occupancy and numbers over the years. However, we have seen a strong drop in numbers since the start of the pandemic, equivalent to about 40% in revenue, because people are fearful of going to hospitals in this delicate time. However, we have faced the financial impact of COVID-19 thanks to the support that comes with belonging to a bigger group, and we look forward to growing in the future. We opened up a clinic in Bilene and have in the pipeline plans to open up primary healthcare centers throughout the country, in places like Nampula, once COVID-19 is over. We have seen a demand for oncology recently, so we plan to open up some chemotherapy units.

What are the strong points of the hospital in terms of the services and specialties it offers?

It is a specialist hospital, with a focus on all types of surgery, from general surgery to spinal surgery. We have a digital microscope, we do most orthopedics, neurology, general surgery, laparoscopic surgery, and pediatric surgery. We have adult and pediatric ICUs and a fully-functional neonatal unit. We also have a dialysis unit and a 24-hour call center. We have an advanced life support paramedic with equipment based on the premises 24 hours. We have radiology and a laboratory, and we are one of the three only locations in Mozambique to do PCR testing for COVID-19. The COVID-19 ward was created as a preventive measure at the beginning of the outbreak in an exterior part of the hospital, although we still have no patients there. It is a 22-bed isolation ward that is ready for the potential peak of the outbreak, with a dedicated operating theater, ICU, and delivery room. If COVID-19 hits Mozambique as hard as it did elsewhere, we are ready.

Will we see an increase in the number of private healthcare facilities in coming years?

I do expect a rise demand in private facilities in the south, with more facilities popping up to facilitate occupational health and GP work. To open such a facility, however, you need a great deal of investment and know-how. It will be hard to open facilities in the north, due to the lack of medical personnel. This will be an issue of concern, given the future developments expected in Palma and Pemba.

What are your projections for the rest of 2020?

We need to look at how we can flatten the curve of COVID-19. The government has been doing an excellent job in addressing the pandemic and imposing a certain set of measures, despite the obvious limitations in available means. The priority now is to manage the public's reaction to the pandemic and assure Mozambican citizens that they are taken care of.