What is DM Healthcare’s international development plan?
MOOPEN: We are into different geographies. Apart from the UAE, we are making big moves into Saudi Arabia where we are acquiring a major hospital. We are also looking at a hospital in Qatar. We already have clinics in Qatar, but we want to start a hospital there. These are a few things that are happening in the Gulf. In India, we have major projects coming up including Medcare City in Kerala and we are also looking at the acquisition of some major hospital chains in other parts of India.
What kinds of investments is DM Healthcare making into the GCC?
MOOPEN: If you look at the numbers, we have a vision 2015, in which we are trying to increase the number of our establishments to around 300. We have about 130 now, including hospitals, clinics and pharmacies. We are planning to increase to 300 in the next 4 years. So there are a large number of hospitals, clinics and pharmacies coming up, both in the Gulf as well as in India. The total investment that we are looking at in the Gulf countries in the next 2 to 3 years will be in the range of AED 1bn ($272m).
What business lines are currently performing the best?
MOOPEN: There is nothing to differentiate between the three verticals we have. The hospitals are doing well, the clinics, as well as the pharmacies. In fact, we make it a point when planning growth and expansion to ensure that there is equilibrium between these three verticals. As our presence was larger in clinics and pharmacies, we are now focusing more on hospitals. If you look at the numbers and turnover, the clinics and pharmacies were larger, so we are now focusing on increasing the number of hospitals.
What are the greatest challenges healthcare providers face today?
MOOPEN: The greatest challenge is manpower. If you look at our expansion plans, we require a large number of technically qualified people. Getting those people is the biggest challenge. We used to get many people from the subcontinent and other countries, the issue is that there is scarcity of skilled people and the salaries of those people are increasing. So the greatest challenge is definitely to get the proper people at the proper time.
What are the strengths and weaknesses of the regulatory environment in the GCC?
MOOPEN: If you look at the regulatory environment, there are issues such as different regulations in different emirates. Even within Dubai, there are different regulations and regulatory bodies between Dubai Healthcare City and the rest of the emirate. It is slightly confusing, but at the same time, I appreciate that the system is getting better and it is becoming easier. As a whole, the regulations are required, but they can be made to function much easier. For example, I mentioned earlier that getting qualified staff is our main challenge; this can become an impediment when the licensing process becomes prolonged or it is not clear for the people who are coming in or for the people who operate here like us. Many a time the requirements have changed. The best thing that happened recently is the creation of the facility for online appearance of examinations for skilled professionals. This was an excellent move, which helps people appear for regulatory examinations in their native countries. However, there is still a long way to go and a single regulatory framework for the entire country needs to be established as soon as possible. In the very least, there should be standardized regulations within each emirate. As it stands today, someone who is licensed in Dubai cannot even practice in Sharjah, and this is something that I think has to change. Going further, if you look at other GCC countries, the regulations are much different from what we have here. It is sometimes easier and sometimes more difficult. In the whole of the GCC, if we establish a common platform, even if only the important things are the same, it will be much easier to move people between the countries. We are people who are active in multiple geographies. We are already in 4 Gulf countries and planning on going to the other 2. So for people like us, it will be much easier if the regulations can be made more uniform across the GCC countries.
How can the private sector play a role in specialist medical care?
MOOPEN: Specialist medical care is being provided by the government sector to a great extent and in the private sector to a lesser extent. Gradually, we are seeing it pick up in the private sector. We were hoping that Dubai Healthcare City would be a tremendous leap forward in the GCC as well as in the whole of the MENA region in attracting patients here because of the specialized care. Unfortunately, this is delayed, but I am sure that within the next couple of years it is going to happen. The University Hospital is going to play a major role. Her Royal Highness has now assumed the Chairmanship of Dubai Healthcare City and the project now has very strong support. Presently, there are certain tertiary and quaternary facilities being provided by private healthcare providers like us. Different private sector providers have different capabilities depending on the specialty. So it is important that the government recognizes this and makes it part of the promotion of the UAE as a destination for health travel. The UAE is an excellent destination for tourism especially for patients from the MENA region. Health tourism can be very well developed if there is support from the government in promoting the UAE as a healthcare destination.
The UAE can be used as a platform where you can begin and then go into other Gulf countries because it is easy to operate in other Gulf countries from here. This can be a springboard for the whole of the GCC, the Middle East as a whole, and even into Africa. People should always view the UAE as a place that can be used as a fulcrum allowing you to serve the whole of the MENA region.
How important is Corporate Social Responsibility and philanthropy to DM Healthcare?
MOOPEN: I think that philanthropy and healthcare are two sides of the same coin. It is always important to look after people who cannot afford or do not have good access to healthcare when you are in the field as a business. These types of initiatives are very close to our hearts and we try to provide as much subsidized and free care as possible to people who really deserve it. We have many projects going on and the one that is closest to my heart is the Save the Little Heart program, which is for pediatric cardiac surgery. This program focuses on congenital cardiac problems in little children. These problems are very expensive and require a high degree of expertise for treatment. The best thing is that if you treat these problems, it is a permanent cure and a child gets a whole life and if you do not treat the child dies. For somebody who cannot afford this treatment cost, you are essentially giving a full life to a child who can then lead a normal life. Many other illnesses will require support after treatment, and in this case, it is a permanent cure that requires no additional treatment. We are sending many children that require cardiac care both here and in India for this treatment. Pediatric cardiac surgery is not available in most hospitals, even here in the UAE, but we have the facilities to perform these procedures, so this is something that is very close to my heart.
Where do you think the best investment opportunities are today?
MOOPEN: I think the UAE is the best destination for investment into any business because there are so many advantages here. When you do business, one thing is how successful the business will be, the second is how comfortable you are to be in the place you are in to conduct that business. Here, between the infrastructure, the safety and the liberty, I do not think there is anywhere comparable in the world. I think the UAE is going to be an excellent destination for anybody doing any business. Looking at healthcare investment, the UAE requires good healthcare provision at affordable cost in different parts of the country. The UAE can be used as a platform where you can begin and then go into other Gulf countries because it is easy to operate in other Gulf countries from here. This can be a springboard for the whole of the GCC, the Middle East as a whole, and even into Africa. People should always view the UAE as a place that can be used as a fulcrum allowing you to serve the whole of the MENA region.