Nestled in the leafy suburb of Hillcrest KwaZulu-Natal Hillcrest Private Hospital provides quality healthcare driven by a strong, customer-centric focus.
Writer Ian Armitage
Project manager Eddie Clinton
It's July 1, 2011. Staff and management of Hillcrest Private Hospital have gathered together. It's a proud day. Today the hospital is officially opened.
It marks the end of what has been a long wait for the local community, a community that now benefits from a full range of medical services and quality healthcare from a professional and dedicated team.
Director of Hillcrest Private Hospital, Glen Passmore, says the hospital's first two years have been "hugely successful" and that it delivers a fresh, family-focused, comfortable hospital experience whilst adhering to international standards of quality care "from the concierge who welcomes patients to the professional, caring medical team."
The 200-bed hospital has 24-hour casualty, day clinic, high care and ICU, state-of-the-art radiology and pathology - and much more - and is committed to "providing quality care coupled with exceptional service delivery."
"We're easily accessible from the N3 and M13 and perfectly positioned away from the hustle and bustle of the city and that makes us a little different," explains Passmore. "It is one of many things that make us different actually."
Hillcrest Private Hospital caters for the greater community stretching from Pietermaritzburg through to the North and South Coast of KZN. It was born out of an increasing demand for healthcare in South Africa, a country whose healthcare system is deeply divided. In the blue corner, there is the private sector; in the red, public. There is a stark contrast between the two and the quality of care they offer. Run-down buildings, failing hospitals, missing medication and stories of deaths caused by a lack of equipment are characteristic of the public health system.
Private healthcare, on the other hand, features world-class hospitals, the most advanced equipment and, importantly, the best doctors (before they emigrate).
Players like Netcare, Life Healthcare and Mediclinic International dominate the scene, but new players do enter the market. Players like Hillcrest Private.
"With limited options provided by the public healthcare system, private healthcare providers have been catering for the growing demand and the private side of the industry has grown considerably in the last 15 years," says Passmore. "Private sector hospitals are more cutting-edge and tend to be newer and that's certainly true of Hillcrest Private. Our being new and exciting and the fact we have world class facilities has helped us attract the best staff. Hillcrest private is able to offer the latest in both medical equipment and innovative service."
At present, the South African healthcare industry is undergoing major changes related to services, how they are provided and who gets them. The challenge the country faces is offering healthcare to the entire population. Yes, private health leads the way but it can be pricey and South Africa's poorest, who are the majority, rely on the public system. That is something President Jacob Zuma and the ANC are looking to change with the introduction of National Health Insurance.
It is an exciting time for healthcare in South Africa, says Passmore.
"We've got state-of-the-art and world class facilities. South Africans have become more health conscious and the result has been a drive for cutting edge technologies, expensive therapies, innovative technologies and the highest quality medical care. The private sector is where this has happened, the sector having funds and being unable to expand, and it is really where we stem from – the demand for healthcare. We were built to provide healthcare to the Hillcrest community and the surrounding suburbs and before we opened, the nearest private hospital was 15km away. The changes happening in South African healthcare are exciting and private facilities like ours will have a very important role to play in South Africa's healthcare future.
It is about determining our role, where we fit. Do we specialise? From a hospital position we have to provide a good service at a reasonable price and the public sector will be buying services from us. That is where the exciting stuff will come from."
Of course one of the major challenges all healthcare providers face in South Africa is a shortage of specialist doctors and other staff. The private sector has had greater success in retaining and attracting talent, but the sheer amount of competition and ever decreasing pool makes life tough.
"It is one of our challenges," Passmore says. "We've several schemes in place to remedy the problem and we have been able to attract people. Being a new, modern hospital certainly helps - state-of-the-art facilities and equipment has been a factor in attracting suitable qualified, motivated and professional staff. Of course we work to retain them and that is an evolving process. Being family-owned is a major plus.
People feel like they are part of what is happening, have control over it and can make a difference. We are a small management team and we do get directly involved and I like to think that we offer a direct ear that you can talk to. If something is wrong you can talk to those that make a decision and I'd like to think we respond to that.
"We have, as I said, been fortunate to acquire specialists and staff who are experienced in the medical industry."
Hillcrest Private's majority shareholder is Ross Healthcare, part of the JT Ross Group, a familyowned South African business that provides a comprehensive range of leading and specialised property solutions. With its roots in construction and civils, the business has evolved into a national property and development company with significant investment in healthcare and hospital management services. An innovative, award-winning team shapes the business, underpinned by quality, integrity and reliability and it will open a new hospital – Gateway, a sister for Hillcrest Private - in 2014. It will be about 15km north of Durban.
Passmore is excited about it. "Two hospitals will give us a broader support base," he says, believing the lessons learned in building Hillcrest Private have already been invaluable in launching the new one. "We've learnt ultimately that you have to adapt and be flexible. You must plan carefully, accept the fact that growth will happen on a steady basis and that things do change. Resources, staffing and everything else need to be planned and adapted accordingly."
His thoughts are rooted in Hillcrest Private Hospital's future. He hopes the hospital will continue to grow and play an important role in SA's healthcare future.
To learn more visit www.hillcresthospital.co.za.