HomeBusinessUntapped potential in the private health sector (Part 2)

Untapped potential in the private health sector (Part 2)

Sometimes your bean counters can be way off the mark When Sol Kezner built Sun City in the early 1980s in Pilanesburg in the middle of nowhere in the then Bophuthatswana [now North West Province], he first rubbished the feasibility study done by his financial advisers indicating that it would not be viable. He had hoped the study would have confirmed what he felt in his gut. Gut feel is kind of spiritual and this is what most entrepreneurs feel before embarking on a project. But gut feel is not a science and should only be relied upon by those with the shrewdness to calculate risk. Kezner took a calculated risk and Sun City triumphed.



Similarly, it is wise to realise that there is no more box to think out from. With commitment, dedication, determination and razor-sharp focus, a project that might look unviable on paper might be the project to roll out when the timing is right. A Victoria Falls medical tourism facility would not only be accessible to local Zimbabweans, but it would also be accessible to all regional countries in the Sadc, including South Africa.

With technology such as the different medical applications now available or new ones to be developed, social media, website development, telemedicine and electronic payment solutions, the marketing of Zimbabwe as a modern medical tourism destination will be just a click away.

The cost structure of private health care in Zimbabwe is over the top

The economic decline, which began in the early 2000s and culminated in the hyperinflationary era up to 2009 when the US dollar was introduced, strained both the private and public health system. Health care costs in the private sector escalated.

Many not on medical aid have had to fork out large amounts in cash upfront to get medical service. Even those on medical aid were compromised because of differences between medical practitioners and medical aid companies. The latter would cover a basic payment which the patient would then claim from them, differing in quantum depending on the medical aid package subscribed to. As a result, some medical aid companies like Cimas, for example, scanned the global healthcare market and identified India as a value-for-money medical tourism destination.

Once Zimbabwe achieves critical mass in the facilities the world clientele can choose from, government intervention with the assistance of a revamped Zimbabwe Tourism Authority and various local governments would be needed to ensure global marketing, affordability, availability, and accessibility of good quality healthcare services.

India, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia are the major destinations in the Asian medical tourism market

Researchandmarkets.com indicates that, “More than 40 countries in Asia, America, Africa and Eastern Europe are serving millions of medical tourists annually…”, but Asia, in particular India, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia, remain the most popular. Researchand markets.com continues, “India is the lowest cost and highest quality of all medical tourism destinations as it offers a wide variety of procedures at about one-tenth the cost of similar procedures in the United States of America. Singapore and India specialise in complex procedures with India having a cost advantage and Singapore a technology advantage.

Thailand is more popular among Western European medical tourists for cosmetic surgery. In Thailand, medical costs are lower than in Singapore and also, it is a much more popular tourist destination. In this regard it is providing medical services, latest medical technology, medicines, and is further strengthening modern medicine, alternative medicine and biotechnology. The Malaysian government is aggressively promoting medical tourism.”

Medical travel away from Zimbabwe is forex lost to the country

Recently an uncle was advised by his medical aid company to travel to India for an operation to have one of his nerves to the heart unblocked. On arriving in India, he was retested and was found to have 99% of his nerves to the heart blocked. He had waited almost a month for the medical aid to arrange his travel arrangements and part payment of the hospital costs. A few more weeks or even days, he could have easily suffered a massive fatal heart attack.

Not only was the misdiagnosis troubling, the fact that he had to travel far and wide for that crucial operation with the misdiagnosis was equally damning. After the operation, he stayed in hospital for three days and they allowed him to travel back to Zimbabwe after 10 days. The cost of the medical costs to India are two-thirds cheaper than in Zimbabwe and a third that of South Africa.

Another family member with his wife, who are based in Hong Kong, travel every year to have annual medical check-ups in Thailand for a fraction of the price. They say they are seen immediately without necessarily making long-drawn-out appointments months before as they will be on holiday too.

This is foreign currency lost to Zimbabwe Inc. Our top dogs in the higher political echelons of power hardly receive treatment locally as they also travel abroad and overseas for all kinds of medical treatment. I believe Zimbabwe Inc can change this narrative and build and operate its own medical tourism industry utilising the current talent we are putting to waste.

If the truth be told, many Zimbabweans ageing in the diaspora would just love to return, retire and live their sunset years at home. It is the shambolic status of the current healthcare system that is holding them back from making that final move.

Zimbabwe can do it

When trained doctors and nurses and those who qualify from various medical training institutions locally are deployed to work in under-resourced and under- equipped facilities, we are not only wasting the investment in that education. We are also killing the nation. Over time, basic medical skills are lost because the clinicians never get an opportunity to work at their most optimum potential with new technological developments.

In 2017 and earlier in 2018, I heard of three cases from people I know, where three different people were admitted for determining tests and lost their lives undergoing routine histology tests.

Zimbabwe can do it if only we could refocus and recalibrate our mindsets away from building the monstrosities of homes, essentially white elephants, around our cities. Among many other things, what we need are well-resourced medical facilities. A healthy nation is a prosperous nation and that prosperity will be the foundation on which to build a viable medical tourism industry.

There are financial institutions locally and abroad willing to fund these sorts of ventures, organisations such as the local banking sector, Old Mutual Asset Management, Takura Ventures, International Finance Corporation and so on.

How Dr Rampedi of Soshanguve did it

The fourth largest private hospital group, Phelang Bonolo Healthcare Group (PBHG) is a wholly-owned black empowered initiative in the private healthcare industry, started by Dr Mabitje Jackson (Jacky) Rampedi, a family practitioner in his community in Soshanguve in Pretoria North, South Africa. PBHG was started single-handedly from humble beginnings in 2006, a mere 12 years ago and 26 years after Zimbabwe’s independence. BPHG partnered with Netcare Healthcare the largest healthcare provider in SA and the United Kingdom in the building of Waterfall Park City, Hospital, a private hospital in Midrand, Johannesburg, and also owns Botshilu Private Hospital and Pinehaven Hospitals.

The group has grown to have a healthcare services industry value chain that includes businesses in hospitals, a wellness and leisure division, convalescence care facilities, healthcare consulting, equipment and pharmaceutical supplies, investments into related healthcare ventures, primary healthcare, mobile division, refuse and waste logistics.

Future developments currently underway are the Hartbeespoort Cardiac and Orthopaedic Centre of Excellence and the Eastmead Day clinic.

It is clear that PBHG with its several subsidiaries operates a total and multi-faceted approach to healthcare and has positioned itself to achieve its strategic vision of quality, affordable healthcare not only for South Africans, but for medical tourists as well.

l Gloria Ndoro-Mkombachoto is an entrepreneur and a regional enterprise development consultant. Her experience spans a period of over 25 years. She can be contacted at totemshumba@gmail.com

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