THE BENEFITS OF COMPETITION

Sharjah 2020 | HEALTH | INTERVIEW

Offering a range of new groundbreaking services based on global best practices helped boost the number of patients between 2017 and 2018 by 20%.

Santosh Skaria
BIOGRAPHY
The CEO of Al Zahra Hospital Sharjah & NMC Healthcare, Sharjah Cluster, Santosh Skaria was formerly CFO of the GMPC Group and has been in Al Zahra Hospital Sharjah for 13 years. He completed the IFRS course and is presently pursuing a Certified Management Accounting Program in the US. As a qualified Chartered Accountant from India with 23 years’ experience in the UAE healthcare industry, Skaria has a proven record of financial acumen, as well as an astute knowledge of the healthcare process across the Middle East. He also has a track record of successful healthcare acquisitions, mergers, development strategies, and a high understanding of the financial ramifications of business decisions.

What is your assessment of healthcare output and business prosperity in recent years?

Since the time the hospital was founded in 1981, Al Zahra has offered a premium level of patient care and service. The strategy of previous owners was to attract only premium patients, and this focus on premium customers and premium treatment did not change when the hospital was sold to NMC. The new owners wanted to preserve the legacy of a premium hospital, which took the form of combining premium-level treatment with a premium-level patient experience. We also wanted to expand patient volume by offering services to more people. This has been the strategy, and the operations of the hospital were directed accordingly. We saw a 20% increase in the number of patients between 2017 and 2018, during which time we maintained the same premium-level care. This is a true achievement in this market. In terms of business prosperity and healthcare output, if you preserve the best services, you will see a rise in patient volume and business going forward. When a hospital reduces the cost of services, it can greatly expand the pool of available clients. I am very optimistic about what this can mean for the country and health of the market. The NMC corporate office has also lent considerable support in terms of specialty expansion. After we were taken over by NMC, we established a cosmetology department, a long-term care department, and a cardiac surgery unit, and are now starting a USD200-million project to include the development of a brand-new building. This will be a 16-story facility adding around 200,000sqft to our capabilities. Such expansion is supported by NMC, whom we expect to facilitate strong growth in the coming years.

What about Al Zahra sets it apart from the competition?

Many new hospitals have entered the market, creating a new level of competition. These newcomers have recognized that this market has a great growth opportunity. When there is a high level of competition, the level of customer care improves across the market. We have seen our own level of patient care improve as competition has increased and have worked to expand and improve almost every aspect of our care in this climate of growing competition. We have an excellent platform in place, which allows us to take every advantage while we grow. We are not bothered about competition, as we understand that it will only bring improvements. We have been active here for 37 years. There are two pillars to healthcare delivery; one is the clinical outcome and the other patient care. No one in this market can match our clinical outcomes. Most of our doctors are trained either in the US or UK, which becomes the biggest differentiator in this market. Along with this, we have started to focus on patient experience. When people get the best experience with the best outcome, there is less reason for us to be concerned about the competition. No other private hospital in the UAE offers the level of specialty that we bring to the market.

How do you attract attention to the world-class service you offer?

We maintain the best cutting-edge technology and equipment at our facilities, which has greatly helped our growth plan. In terms of health tourism, growth started with Sharjah Healthcare City. We provide patients from around the world with bariatric, cardiac, and oncology surgery, and as competition picks up, we will see more specialties moving to Sharjah.