With six hospitals and clinics across the UAE, and a multi-disciplinary hospital under construction, Welcare World Health Systems is aiming to become a market leader in the healthcare industry.
Welcare World was set up in 1984 by the Varkey Group, which also owns Gems Education and Emirates Diagnostic Clinic in Satwa. It ran this one centre until 1998 when Welcare Hospital opened in Al Garhoud. In the 10 years since the first hospital started recieving patients, Welcare has gone on to build a portfolio of seven centres, including one in Muscat, Oman. However, this summer will see it turn a new direction when the City Hospital opens its doors and becomes the DHCC’s first multi-disciplinary hospital.
Being built at a cost of approximately $100 million (Dh367m), City Hospital, which is located in Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC), will bring specialists from across the board under one roof – something that has proved tricky in the past due to increasing numbers of patients and resulted in the establishment of the specialist Welcare Eye Centre in DHCC.
Danie Meintjes, the CEO of Welcare World Health Systems, said: “Welcare Hospital was too busy, we needed space and ophthalmology was the one discipline we could move out at that stage. But if you ask me tomorrow if I would open another eye clinic within a hospital, I would, because I’d incorporate it into a total environment of services.
“The key focus area for us is the City Hospital. It’s a huge building and we are of the opinion it will be a real clinically leading hospital because it’ll be the first multi-disciplinary hospital in DHCC.”
But along with building new hospitals comes the need for more staff, something Welcare admits has been a challenge at times. While there is no shortage of medical staff willing to move to Dubai, finding ones with the right qualifications has not been easy.
“It’s the government’s vision to bring in a new quality standard of healthcare into Dubai … They say if you want to control or put a new standard in, you must start off by looking at qualifications and verifications of clinicians. So they have a list of 16 countries from where people can qualify from,” explained Meintjes.
“The problem is not getting people, but getting good people at the right price. We don’t mind paying more for good staff, but to recruit people and give them the same standard of living as people who have been here for a few years, you have to pay them much more, so we find inflation is limiting our ability to find good quality staff.”
Last year marked the beginning of a new era for the company when South Africa-based Medi-Clinic bought a majority share. Re-named as Welcare World Health Systems, it has since taken on a new track with executives from the parent company being brought in to align it with the rest of the business, which also has a presence in Switzerland.
Medi-Clinic is listed on the South African stock exchange and has seen a sharp fall in the price of shares over the past six months, but is slowly climbing. Despite this drop in fortunes, the group is also building a clinic in Uptown Mirdif, thus reinforcing its commitment to local healthcare, says Meintjes.
Although they will not reveal their profits or say exactly how much they plough back into patient care, Welcare’s Director of Finance Craig Tingle said it is always a significant amount due to the necessity of meeting patient standards.
“We put everything into patient care to make a profit. We invest in capital expenditure, training and patient care,” he said.
“If you want to stay abreast you have to keep on top of training and buying the best equipment. If we don’t make a profit we go out of business, but we believe patients get good value for money.”
In a country that relies on private healthcare, the industry can be lucrative. Although UAE nationals are taken care of by the government, expatriates have to have insurance, but the executives of Welcare believe this is no bad thing. For not only does it help their business, but it also helps to raise standards across the board.
Meintjes said that in 2006, the government spent Dh182 million on healthcare for UAE nationals, which equates to an average of Dh210,000 per patient. They are therefore aiming to save by building good enough facilities that the government will shun sending some people abroad for treatment in favour of supporting the local system.
“The government doesn’t have all the services in Dubai, but with University Hospital in DHCC, it is building its own tertiary teaching quality hospital that can ultimately only lead to keeping people in the country. However, before that stage if we can prove our quality and prove our service, we’re hoping the government will support local centres,” said Tingle.
With Meintjes revealing the UAE Government spent just 2.9 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) on healthcare, the Emirates is lagging behind many other countries in the world.
The United States is the world leader with 15 per cent, but the CEO believes a range of eight to 10 per cent is average around the world. Most health cover is relied upon by insurance, which is usually the domain of an employer. However, the cover one gets varies immensely between companies providing only basic cover compared to those that give optical and dental too.
Executives from Welcare are forecasting the Government of Dubai to follow the lead of Abu Dhabi and pass a compulsory health insurance ruling that all companies must follow, but even then it will not represent an unrealistic output, but it will no doubt benefit a significant proportion of the population who put their health at risk because they simply cannot afford to pay themselves.
“If you insure a car, such as a Prado, which is not an expensive car, it will cost you Dh8,000 to Dh9,000 a year, but health insurance for an individual is about Dh2,000, so if you compare them they are out of sequence. Where I worked before [in South Africa] health insurance there was 12 times more expensive than what we have here, so health insurance in Dubai is really cheap,” explained Meintjes.
Medcare Hospital has been granted the Joint Commission International (JCI) accreditation, one of theoverseas standards the UAE Government insists on for allhospitals and medical clinics.
The hospital gained theaccreditation just seven months after it opened, which Medcare CEO Ala Atari said enforces itscommitment to medical field.
“The JCI award is anacknowledgment of the high quality of healthcare that the doctors and nurses at Medcare provide,” he said.
“People wishing to use our services can be assured they arereceiving treatment that has been acknowledged by an awarding body recognised internationally.”
Medcare Hospital, which islocated next to Safa Park in Jumeirah, Dubai, is a 60-bed facility that opened last year. The JCIaccreditation hails from the United States and compares the services and facilities of candidate hospitals with those around the world.
The chief executive
Danie Meintjes is the CEO of Welcare World Health Systems.
He joined the company from Medi-Clinic as director of human
resources and was promoted at the end of last year.
Before coming to Dubai, he was head of the human resources
department at the corporate head office in Stellenbosch after being transferred from the SandtonMedi-Clinic, then the largest private hospital in South Africa.
He also holds the position ofexecutive director on theMedi-Clinic Board, responsible for the group’s operations in the UAE. He holds a BPI (Hons) degree from the University of Free State and has more than 25 years experience in the hospital industry.
DHCC to house $100m multi-disciplinary hospital