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Give us a brief about Thumbay’s healthcare vertical’s growth in the UAE and the gulf region?
What started with a single academic hospital in Ajman in 2002 under Thumbay Group’s Healthcare Division has today grown into one of the largest healthcare networks in the region, with four Thumbay academic hospitals in the UAE and one in India, in addition to rapidly growing networks of state-of-the-art Thumbay Clinics, modern Thumbay Pharmacies and cutting-edge Thumbay Labs across the UAE.
Our healthcare network is all set to grow manifold in the immediate future, with projects already underway in Qatar, Ghana, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. By 2020, the Thumbay Hospital network will have 15 hospitals in various parts of the world. We also have several Thumbay Clinics opening up at various locations in the UAE this year. This is in addition to plans to expand our clinic network to countries in the African continent as well as in the Indian subcontinent, shortly.
Two of significant projects coming up in the campus of the Gulf Medical University in Ajman include a 400-bed academic hospital which when completed will be the biggest private academic hospital in the region, and a 60-chair dental hospital and hi-tech rehabilitation center, both expected to be operational in the next couple of years.
How hospitals are maintaining balance between their business interests and public health service?
Major healthcare groups operate hospital chains, which allow centralized services like management and accounting as well as the sharing of facilities between individual hospitals. This helps minimize a great deal of costs. Cost-cuttings are also achieved through strategic partnership and tie-ups.
Thumbay Hospitals and Clinics provide high-quality healthcare at affordable costs. Some of the treatment packages offered by our hospitals and diagnostic services of our chain of Thumbay Labs are among the most economical in the region. We also regularly conduct free medical and dental camps, discounted maternity packages and heavily discounted treatments and procedures as part of our CSR. These initiatives, in no small measure help the public gain easy access to our modern facilities and advanced treatments. Also, our Patient Affairs Department ensures that no patient who approaches our hospitals are denied treatment due to their inability to pay.
Do you have any expansion and capital raising plans in the immediate future?
We are currently investing AED 1.2 billion to develop 420 establishments across different verticals such as healthcare, education, fitness, hospitality, retail etc. by 2020, which will nearly double the group’s valuation up from US$ 1.8 billion to above US$ 3 billion. The expansion would also take our employee strength to around 6000 in the next two years, and to around 15,000 by 2020.
We are also planning to increase our shareholder base by issuing an initial public offering (IPO) in two to three years’ time.
According to our strategic plans, we aim to open 25 more Thumbay Labs, 100 more Thumbay Pharmacies, 25 Nutri Plus Vis outlets, 25 Zo & Mo Opticals outlets, 25 Body & Soul Health Clubs, 100 Blends & Brews Coffee Shops and three more university campuses in Ghana, Malaysia and India, in addition to 15 academic hospitals worldwide.
How are you maximizing the capital expenditures?
Maximizing capital expenditures is a challenging task, especially for the management team of a hospital. This has become particularly tough in the present times, when every healthcare spending is expected to deliver significantly improved quality and value of care. Thumbay Group’s healthcare establishments have adopted a retail-like approach, wherein we focus on ensuring that our hospitals are convenient for the patients served. We are also seeking acquisition opportunities to incorporate existing facilities into our hospital network. Thumbay Hospital – Hyderabad, India, is a case in point.
How do you compare healthcare costs in the UAE?
Healthcare standards are considered to be generally high in the UAE, compared to most other countries. Good quality healthcare, obviously, comes at a price. But the best thing about the UAE is that its world-class healthcare has become affordable here.
The country has regulations in place which make sure that healthcare is reasonably priced. For example, the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) has strict monitoring measures to evaluate hospitals’ request to raise prices, ensuring that healthcare costs are not inflated, at the same time maintaining the freedom of the market. Moreover, the compulsory health insurance which is in force in some of the Emirates is a step to guarantee healthcare affordability. The increasingly large flow of medical tourists into the UAE suggests that it is the favorite destination for quality healthcare at reasonable costs. This inflow is also driven by the safety and security offered by the country.
If you had one piece of advice to offer to region’s healthcare operators, what would it be?
The visionary leaderships of the Middle East countries have always been very supportive to us, the private healthcare operators who ventured into this sector. They have rightly identified the huge potential of the healthcare sector and are keen to advance it further. Needless to say, the region today has some of the best world-class hospitals and healthcare facilities. Hospitals in the region today attract patients even from far away countries, due to the quality of treatment we offer.
My advice to fellow healthcare operators is to constantly innovate and to always focus on giving the best services to patients. Value your ethics and maintain transparency. Together, let us transform the region into the healthcare hub of the world.