Hospital charges to remain stable despite Apollo deal, pledges health ministry

The ministry of health has pledged that hospital charges will remain stable at Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH), even though it is to managed by private company Apollo Hospital Group.

Health Minister Dr Aminath Jameel said the hospital remained a state asset “and we have only handed the management of the hospital over to Apollo.”

The minister also said that IGMH would be turned into a teaching hospital, which would provide training for nurses and paramedics in line with the government’s aim of ensuring at least 80 per cent of hospital staff are Maldivian within 15 years. Currently 60 per cent of the hospital’s nursing staff are foreign.

The health ministry acknowledged that IGMH was not at the standard that a tertiary hospital should be.

“Even though it’s hard to accept, we don’t have the capacity within the country to bring the hospital up to standard. We needed help from a foreign party,” Jameel said.

A situational analysis of the hospital will be conducted in the first three months of new management, after which a work plan will be submitted to the government.”

“We want the hospital to have a good management team to oversee the daily management of services,” Jameel said.

She also offered reassurances that Maldivian jobs would not be lost as part of this deal, and that the agreement was within the Maldivian employment act.

The current ratio at IGMH is three foreign staff for every Maldivian, a statistic Jameel said the ministry hoped to reverse.

Where’s the money?

The ministry paints the deal as very good for the Maldives on paper. But what does Apollo stand to gain?

Zubair Mohamed, CEO of IGMH said the deal with Apollo “wasn’t done to make a profit, but to provide good health care.”

Asked if how Apollo would be able to make a return on their US$20 million investment in the dilapidated Male’ hospital, Zubair said money “was a combined investment made by Apollo, the Indian government and the Maldives – not to be recovered, but to motivate the hospital.”

The benefits would be quickly realised, he said, “and after the first five years, IGMH will have the capacity to train doctors on the job as general practitioners.”

Zubair also said that having a high standard of hospital would open up possibilities for medical tourism, a lucrative sub-sector of the tourism industry in countries like Thailand.

“Having a good hospital means doors are opened for things like wellness tourism and palative care. Even tourists can comfortably have a medical check-up,” Zubair said.


Apollo Hospital Group to run IGMH in privatisation deal

The ministry of health and family has announced a 15 year agreement with Apollo Hospital Group to manage Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) in Male’.

The deal was signed on behalf of the government by Health Minister Dr Aminath Jameel and Dr Preetha Reddy, who represented Apollo Hospital Group.

Apollo estimates it will need to spend US$25 million to bring the hospital up to global standards, according to the  Economic Times, an Indian newspaper.

A statement released by the ministry claimed the objective of the deal is to improve health services while keeping prices stable.

Apollo Hospital Group was first established in 1983, and is now considered the third largest private healthcare provider in the world. The company currently administrates 8,000 beds and has plans to reach 15,000 beds, reports the Economic Times.

Apollo is expected to make an assessment of the hospital’s needs in the first three months, and plans to offer orthopedics, cardiology, gastro, neurology and acute care and trauma specialities in the first phase of the privatisation deal. The hospital will set up and operate a cardiology unit within the year, the health ministry added.

Chairman of the privatisation committee Mahmood Razee said one of the first changes to be made by Apollo would be to management.

“The major issue was that the management structure [at IGMH] was not working properly, this led to high costs and some services and medicines not being available. The overall qaulity of service went down,” he said.

“Over the next three months there will be structural changes to management changes at IGMH, and an evaluation plan will be submitted as well. Apollo group gives IGMH the advantage of economies of scale, which will lower the overall running costs.”

The hospital’s new management group has also revealed its intentions to make 80% of its employees Maldivian over a 15 year period, although it was unclear as to how this would be achieved given the lack of medical higher education facilities in the country.

Another objective the ministry noted was to ensure that all employees are treated within the correct employment regulations set by the government.

Razee noted that the deal was not part of the government’s public-private partnership scheme.

A doctor working at IGMH said staff were unable to comment on the deal “because we haven’t been officially informed yet. All the information we have received has come through the media.”