Care and cost should be balanced to maintain quality

Progressive efforts from the government, insurance companies and private sector are required to ensure world class healthcare in Oman, says V T Saileswaran, MD of Apollo Hospitals Muscat 

When did Apollo start operations in Oman? What are the factors that attracted the group to this country?

Apollo started its operations in Oman in 2005. Brand Apollo has been synonymous with delivering quality healthcare since its inception and our very objective is to strengthen the healthcare infrastructure in the sultanate. Our mission is to bring healthcare of international standards within the reach of every individual in the sultanate so that they do not have to rely upon other countries for treatments. This would not only prevent patients from spending additionally on travelling apart from the treatment costs, but would also facilitate them to achieve the same quality healthcare which is now easily accessible in their own country.

How do you evaluate the healthcare facilities in Oman? What value addition does Apollo bring to the sultanate's healthcare sector?

Healthcare facilities in Oman have come a long way but there is still enough scope for further development. Earlier there were limited number of hospitals with adequate infrastructure and medical care but now things have changed for the better and it can be seen in the changing attitude of the locals as well as expats who have shown their trust in private hospitals over the years.

At Apollo, it has been our constant effort to broaden the range of world class medical facilities to be made available locally by introducing new specialties of treatments that were not present in the country before. For instance, the sugar clinic, pediatric thalassemia, pediatric urology, pediatric ortho, advanced arthroscopy and orthopedic surgeries to name a few have succeeded in providing international level of healthcare to the people in Oman.

How has the hospital's performance been since the beginning of operation here? Please specify milestones.

Apollo Muscat started as a medical centre in 2005 and within the first two years of its operations, it was upgraded to hospital standards. We started initially with 20 bed capacity and our focus was to provide IP and OT facilities with international standards. In 2011, as per the MoH requirements, we upgraded to a super specialty hospital with a capacity of 60 beds and 170 plus staff comprising well-trained and experienced medical practitioners including top level orthopedic and neurosurgeons from India and Germany who are capable of handling the most critical cases in hip, shoulder, knee replacement surgeries delivering world class treatments to the people of Oman.

What are the specialties offered at Apollo Muscat?

Apollo Hospital Muscat renders international level of healthcare services in the sphere of cardiology, general medicine, diabetes & endocrinology, ENT, general surgery, gynecology and obstetrics, orthopedics, dentistry, neurology and neonatology & pediatrics. The emergency department operates round-the-clock and is well equipped and prepared to deal with any type of emergencies. Apollo Hospital Muscat, is the only hospital in Oman offering regular super specialty consultation clinics by visiting consultants from the Apollo Hospitals Group from India in the area of spine, orthopedics, arthroscopy & knee, neurosurgery, liver and cardiology.

We also have internationally acclaimed consultants from Germany to address critical issues in our mission to serve better to the people of Oman.

What are the allied services provided by Apollo in Oman?

Shilpa Saileswaran: We have introduced the IMC Sugar Diabetes clinic with state of the art infrastructure, a first of its kind facility in the sultanate which is not only restricted to diabetes but also caters to related departments like dietetic consultation, advanced eye and skin care.

What was the motivation behind opening a specialty diabetes clinic? How is the Centre’s performance?

Shilpa Saileswaran: It won’t be incorrect to mention that Oman is slowly becoming a nation of diabetics and it’s getting worse by the day. Unhealthy food habits and a sedentary lifestyle are to be blamed for the same. There was no such facility in the sultanate earlier to cater to this deadly disease and therefore the need to address the issue was pertinent.

Increasing foot falls is testimony to the popularity of this unique and first of its kind diabetes care services facility.

Our aim is to  provide complete diabetes care under one roof with 360 degree care and monitoring which includes diabetologist consultations, lab & radiology services, pharmacy, foot care services, eye clinic, dietetic consultation, medicated diabetic footwear etc.

The private healthcare sector is becoming fiercely competitive in Oman. How can one manage to provide quality healthcare without affecting the bottom line?

Competition is good as it helps to escalate the benchmark of quality in the market. However, quality can only be maintained when there is a balance between care and cost. It is basically the teamwork of the government, MoH, insurance companies along with the private hospitals that would help to build a healthy nation.

In the current scenario, health insurance has been the biggest challenge for the private healthcare sector due to which it has become difficult to sustain the quality without affecting the bottom-line. Having said that, it is imperative to work hand in hand to understand the need of the hour and for delivering optimum level of care ensuring that no patient has to seek treatments abroad.

Health insurance for employees is being made compulsory from 2018. How will it impact private healthcare providers?

Mandatory health insurance is a good decision for working people. But its impact on the

healthcare service providers will be different. Now 60-65 per cent of our patients avail insurance and the remainder pay cash. Insurance companies’ payments to hospitals take 6-8 months in Oman. If the percentage of insurance claimants go up next year, our cash flow will be severely affected, if payment schedules continue in the same manner 

Another issue is that premiums are much lower in Oman compared to markets like the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Insurance companies' margins are squeezed and they, in turn, pressure hospitals to reduce costs for treatments. This will have an adverse impact on the quality of healthcare in the country.

So insurers, hospitals and the ministry have to find an amicable solution to this problem.

What are Apollo's plans for the future in Oman?

Shilpa Saileswaran: Every day there are significant developments in the healthcare sector and keeping that in mind we are also constantly upgrading our services to meet the requirements of the people of Oman for which we are forever committed.

In the near future, we are trying to introduce few more specialties in the country which are not yet present but can significantly put the country’s healthcare services on a rapid growth at par with international standards. 

Care and cost should be balanced to maintain quality
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