Joint Medical Holdings has created a space in South African healthcare to allow top-class care for all, expanding its portfolio to meet the country’s increasing needs
Writer: Phoebe Calver
Project Manager: Callam Waller
As recently as 30 years ago, there was a desperate need for non-white patients to be admitted into the private hospitals. South Africa needed to provide the essential requirements of specialist doctors to admit and treat people through means of intravenous therapy and in order to diagnose complicated conditions.
At the time there were no opportunities for non-white patients to be admitted into the ‘white group hospitals’, and subsequently Joint Medical Holdings established a small 26-bed hospital with an important service to the community.
“Our philosophy was centrally to continuously reinvest earnings to improve the hospital,” explains the Company Chief Executive Officer, Dr Ramesh Bhoola. “As a result of this our hospital continued to grow, taking us from the initial 26 rooms to a 700-bedroom facility, now complete with modern theatres and modern hi-tech medical facilities.”
When the hospital started more than three decades ago, Bhoola confirms that there were no specialist doctors within the organisation: “We had no neurologist, no cardiologist or gastro-entrologist and as these specialities began to build over the years this required us to introduce and adapt to more sophisticated technology, that each super-specialist would require.
“It was pivotal to both our growth and service to patients that we could keep up with these changes, providing high-tech machinery that would attract and retain specialist doctors.”
Moving forward to the present day and the organisation has increased its influence in the market in terms of the services available within the hospital, recently installing a cardiac catheterisation lab in which it has performed many successful coronary bypass surgical procedures.
“We have also acquired a facility in Richards Bay with a True Beam oncology machine,” continues Bhoola. “This will provide us with superior radiation beams that allow us to treat cancer with more accuracy. This has been one of our main focus areas in the recent past. We hope to expand our facilities with urology services in the northern KwaZulu-Natal area which appears to be a real area of growth at present.”
Recently, with thanks to a strong balance sheet, the Company was able to buy out Life Group who had previously had a 49 percent share in JMH.
Bhoola continues: “More recently we sold 51 percent of our shareholdings to the Abraaj Group - an international entity - after their group saw great potential in terms of equity within the Company.
“This has enabled us to have a little more freedom financially when it comes to the areas of expansion we are entering. We think Abraaj will allow us to provide a low-cost model of healthcare.”
This will be especially helpful with the severity of TB and HIV, alongside a rapid increase in the metabolic syndrome with diabetes, hypertension, ischaemic heart disease, hyperlipidaemia and hyperuricemia. Bhoola adds: “We have the highest levels of obesity in the world and this is something that we quickly need to tackle.”
Finding the best possible medical and healthcare management skills within the market has proven to be increasingly difficult, both are a scarce commodity within South Africa and then from a retention perspective as well.
“During the many years we have been operating in the industry, a lack of skills has been one of the biggest challenges that we have encountered,” explains Bhoola. “We are currently searching for a cardiologist to join our team on a full-time basis, and similarly there are other disciplines that we need to fill as the shortage of skills at present is making it difficult to provide required specialities in our hospital.”
It is important to note that in South African hospitals they are not able to employ doctors, nor are they able to own x-ray and lab facilities.
“It is our hope that these legislations will change in the near future,” the CEO continues. “If they were to change the legislations it would allow both hospitals and doctors to own pathology and radiology departments, which would subsequently dramatically reduce the cost of healthcare in South Africa.”
As part of its Company ethos, Joint Medical Holdings continues to realise a commitment to supporting local suppliers and people who have BEE accreditation.
“Alongside supporting our local suppliers, we have also been involved in a variety of local corporate social responsibility activities,” describes Bhoola. “Perhaps one of the most prominent activities we have taken part in is with the Into the Light Foundation, with which we have carried out more than 2,000 cases of cataract surgeries.
“Moving forward we hope to continue on with this work while also tackling the aligning Government waiting lists issue that halts so many surgical operations being done timeously.”
JMH identified that many of the patients on the aforementioned waiting lists are on hold for up to three years before having access to surgeries.
“We were able to offer patients surgery at no cost to them, made possible by the work we are doing with Into the Light,” continues the CEO.
In a similar project to its work with Into the Light, for the past 20 years JMH has provided a diabetic clinic that now sees between 30 and 40 diabetic patients a week free of charge. We also provide cost-effective dialysis for patients requiring haemodialysis.
“More recently we have started our own birthing team that is successfully ensuring safe and cost-effective deliveries and caesarean sections,” concludes Bhoola. “Alongside that enterprise we have the Smiling Heart Clinic in which we provide highly comprehensive care for our patients with cardiac disease, with cost effective holter monitoring, echo cardiograms and coronary angiograms.”
“At present we are working on an initiative called Integrated Care, something that we believe will be integral to our core patient care service moving forward; this focuses especially on those that cannot afford medical aid and are often sent out to provincial hospitals.
“We are happy to have reduced the rates for these patients so that they can access the hospital, doctors, radiologists, pathologists and anaesthetists and it is an aspect that we believe will be a pivotal aspect of our service in the future.”