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2017 HEALTHCARE REFORMS IN SAUDI ARABIA KEY FOCUS OF AL DAR HOSPITAL

Saudi Arabia 2017 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Dr. Hussain Abdulghani, CEO of Al Dar Hospital (Medina), on the establishment of the institution, working toward Vision 2030, and collaborating with overseas organizations.

What is Al Dar Hospital's background and what services does it provide?

Al Dar Hospital and the healthcare business represent a sister firm of our holding company, AGH Group. The group developed the idea to invest in healthcare in 1982, and we established our first hospital, which had a 35-bed capacity, back in 1986. Between 1986 and 2003 that hospital was the main piece of our healthcare strategy. In 2003, we began to develop new plans and built a new main building here and began operations in our new location in 2007. Now, we are exploring options to expand the facilities further and there are several developments in the pipeline. In terms of our healthcare focus, we are a more general hospital in terms of medical specialties. We focus on providing as many specialties as possible, and we have three centers of excellence in the hospital. We have tailored our offerings to mirror that several diseases currently afflicting Medina's population, including diabetes, obesity, and heart disease and focus on offering excellent services in each of these areas. We also have a center for neuro and spine surgery and orthopedic surgery, which treats many of the elderly and road accident victims in the area. We have 260 beds, but in two years we will expand to 300. We have strong collaboration with the MoH through long term patient referral program. We receive MoH patients in the largest ICU unit in the region, with around 120 ICU beds, including those in the adult, pediatric and neonatal units. In addition, we have strong connections in Medina and Riyadh, reaching all the way the decision makers. We can participate with and give feedback regarding health care reforms and offer our 30 years experience in the business. At a group level, AGH Group is investing in healthcare, education, and manufacturing, specifically escalators and elevators since 1974.

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 implement this vision, but 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 the 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 emerge from our strength being a key player in reforming the healthcare sector in Saudi Arabia. However, we need to focus on other aspects to be an effective partner in the health care market. As a family business, we need to recruit the right people to take this family group to the next level. We need to go abroad as well as attracting global partners in healthcare to work with us in Saudi Arabia. We are still missing this piece. In terms of collaboration with MoH, we have concerns regarding taking this collaboration to next level. This include clear privatization plans, well defined mechanisms for hospitals operations, well defined national health care model, and accelerated payment system for MoH 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 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 the works for institutions in Turkey. We want to develop a consortium that includes international hospitals. We want to stimulate serious advancements in medical care and facilities in Medina including best available medical expertise to the local community by leveraging international connections. Looking ahead, before we expand we need to develop financing channels beyond the company, but this is unlikely. Perhaps I am being too realistic, but this is important. 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.


 

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