SGH Group, a subsidiary of the Saudi Middle East Healthcare Company (MEAHCO), is expected to inaugurate its Alexandria medical city late 2019, said CEO of the SGH Group Mohamed Hablas, adding that about 75% of the branch’s construction has already been finished.
Alexandria’s new branch is part of a huge plan for the development of new five branches in Egypt, in addition to its main branch in Cairo, noted Hablas, elaborating, “right now, only the Cairo branch is already operating, and for future expansion, we will have a medical city in Alexandria, a new branch in Giza, a new one in Assuit, and we are still working on some branches in Ismailia and the New Administrative Capital.”
Egypt is a substantial market with a population of over 95 million. Manpower resources available are mainly in highly skilful doctors, said Hablas adding, “although there is a market deficiency in beds compared to the high population, and a lack of healthcare organisations which consider quality as strategic goal, low cost is an important attractive sale point to nearby countries and Africa.”
Daily News Egypt, sat down with Hablas for an interview, the transcript for which is below, lightly edited for clarity:
What is the amount of your investment in your new branches, as well as their inauguration dates?
I cannot reveal figures, especially that all the costs were changed after the devaluation. However, the Giza branch is expected to be inaugurated within one year, while other branches are still in their early establishment stages, and New Administrative Capital branch is still in the discussions phase.
On March 2017, The Minister of Investment and International Cooperation (MIIC) Sahar Nasr paid a visit to the Saudi German Hospital (SGH) in Cairo where she listened to Makarem Batterjee, Vice Chairman of Batterjee Group (BG), and owner of the SGH, about the volume of investments which amounted to $5bn in the initial first phase, according to the MIIC’s website.
Batterjee added that BG is currently in the process of constructing Tiba City in Alexandria, which will include eight hospitals with investments worth EGP 10bn, the largest investment in Africa, noting that BG is committed to building 12 hospitals in Egypt, throughout various governorates, in addition to non-profit hospitals, as part to its social role, said the MIIC.
The minister commended Saudi investments in Egypt, and requested that BG construct the non-profit hospitals in underprivileged regions in Upper Egypt, revealing that the state supports investments in human capital, through education, and health.
How many patients visited your hospital in 2017 and the first half of 2018?
We receive 290,330 Egyptian patients and 4,772 foreign patients annually.
Notably, in mid-2016, media reports revealed the inauguration of the SGHGroup in Cairo, the first branch in Egypt, after operating in Saudi, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen, while the same year witnessed the announcement of the group’s plan to establish a branch in Alexandria.
How many employees do you have and what are your future plans for new employees? Can you also tell us about training courses that you provide for your employees?
The number of employees we have are almost 1,500. We have 227 doctors employed, few are referrals, and none are on part-time basis, but are Egyptians, visiting German professors, as well as other nationalities. Regarding the training courses, we have an internal training and development centre responsible for providing employee courses. We have two types of courses which we provide, managerial and soft skills training.
Can you elaborate on your services and the new services will you provide in the future?
We have many unique services including the one-stop-shop which is a tertiary hospital, with a full-time medical staff (a more patient oriented hospital), implementing international approved standards, operating manual protocols, continuous improvement, one bill service, a multidisciplinary medical team, building staff capacity, low turnover, and a training and development centre.
What are the key challenges of working with insurance?
Account Health Insurance mainly depends on cost sharing such as co-payment, ceiling, deductibles, in addition to delay of approvals or waiting time, shifting patients to other facilities, the Scope of service designed by patients or by the company, and outpatient medication not included in the deal.
What about your five-year strategy in Egypt?
Our five-year strategy generally focuses on accountability for deliverables to gain the confidence of all stake holders, investors and bankers. Our strategy is built on monitoring and control mechanisms, incorporating global best practices, and applying scientific management tools
The strategy covers all strategic business units, key performance areas, and all core functions. This plan was developed by the executive committee of SGH Cairo, and all its hospital departments based on our second year of operation, and the marketing data, in order to maximise the opportunities.
The coming three years of the operations are challenging years because we need to grow horizontally and vertically, and to breakeven. All of the hospital’s departments were involved in the operational plans, which support the implementation of the hospital’s strategic objectives.
What about the international certificates you received? And the ones you aim to receive?
We received the Joint Commission International standards accreditation after one year and nine months from the start of operations. Subsequently, we were awarded the Temos Accreditation for International Medical Tourism in August 2018. Currently we are targeting to get the ‘Baby friendly Hospital’ certificate by January 2019.
Do you have any corporate service responsibility activities in Egypt? Can you provide details about them and any future plans in this field?
The SGH collaborated with the Zayed Al Ataa non-governmental organisation (NGO) for the ‘1,000 Medical Check-up Campaign’ in Al-Sharqiya. However, in collaboration with different medical specialities in Belbis, Al-Sharqiya governorate last year 2017, we were able to complete over 1,000 medical check-ups free of charge.
What’s more, the SGH sponsored a marathon to support the children in the 57357 hospital. The marathon was held at the American University in Cairo and the SGH offered full medical check-ups for the attendees free of charge too.
Moreover, our group conducted medical check-ups for 2,600 people during visits to sports clubs and youth groups, and about over 25 visits were carried out.
We also performed over 20 visits for private companies and governmental organisations, and we conducted awareness sessions for first aid, nutrition, blood pressure, and diabetes for more than 4,000 employees.
We also visited many schools and universities and engaged in awareness sessions for first aid, nutrition, blood pressure, and diabetes for over 400 students.
Meanwhile, the SGH partnered with TedX to exclusively host their talks and seminars, and we also partnered with the “Alshanek Ya Baladi” NGO to exclusively host their talks and seminars with over 2,000 attendees present.
How do you assess the investment climate in Egypt currently in general, and specifically in the medical sector?
Egypt is a substantial market with a population of over 95 million. Manpower resources available are mainly in highly skilful doctors, although there is a market deficiency in beds compared to the high population, and a lack of healthcare organisations which consider quality as strategic goal, low cost is an important attractive sale point to nearby countries and Africa.
Moreover, to start operating, it took us 13 years for many reasons including the revolution in 2011, and licenses especially from the ministry of civil aviation, but that was an exceptional case and we cannot depend on it as a reference for future projects.
Did you face any challenges in Egypt?
Before setting our strategy for future operation, we faced some challenges which we need to think through such as, will we start working as per the Egyptian market history? Or will we start our standard way of operation? In addition, the salary scale for the first time in Egypt was one of the questions, and adjusting all manpower equipment and scheduled operation dates.
We were also faced with the challenge of dealing with several authorities, the ministry of health in three areas including Nozha Cairo, and their main headquarters, the ministry of environment, the municipality, the civil aviation ministry, the ministry of labour, the ministry of finance, the medical societies, medical syndicates, the ministry of investment, the general mechanical and electrical authority, the ministry of defence and military production and many more.
We also faced issues of dealing with new vendors and approving the quality and payment terms, recruitment of doctors, and other medical staff on a full-time basis, creating new contracts, for example for credit clients, employees and subcontractors based on Egyptian laws, as well as outsourcing catering, housekeeping and security services, adapting the hospital’s information system software which we work with in the gulf area to the Egyptian systems, including insurance, syndicates, taxes and social insurance data.
We aimed to create a new, and different work culture, a cosmopolitan environment, build trust, and avoid problems with universities and other lobbies in Egypt. However, we faced the challenge of modifying the very old typical customer behaviour who trust specific doctors rather than the actual hospital.
It worth mentioning that the MEAHCO is the largest healthcare provider in Saudi Arabia, established by the Batterjee family, which owns and operates a network of state-of-the art hospitals under the Saudi German Hospitals brand name.