Davos 2022: VPS Healthcare plans expansion in Gulf and Africa after group integration

Publish May 25, 2022

Exclusive: Chairman Dr Shamsheer Vayalil says integration of assets was set in motion as a result of the pandemic

The consolidation of VPS Healthcare’s 60 assets under a new holding company is the result of the firm's experiences during the Covid-19 pandemic, its chairman has said.

Shamsheer Vayalil, chairman and managing director of VPS Healthcare, told The National on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos that the integration of these facilities — including Burjeel and Medeor branded hospitals, and spanning more than 2,000 beds — was accelerated as a result of the need for its facilities to work “as one” to meet the health crisis.

“Covid was a kind of wake-up call, and fortunately, our capacity was ready just before Covid [hit]. In fact, one of our hospitals opened during [the pandemic], one of the labs got functional during Covid,” he said.

“That is where we got the idea of consolidation because we saw the improvement, wastage, reductions, efficiency improvements, when people started sitting in one room and functioning like a command centre.”

The group is taking on more of a global perspective, as evidenced by their presence on the Promenade on Davos. The temporary “Burjeel House”, where Dr Vayalil met The National for the interview, occupies a storefront next door to Ukraine House.

VPS is hosting experts and executives in the healthcare space as well as bankers and investors throughout the week in Davos.

“We feel that that's the way we want to grow, we want to cater to all the sectors, and health equity is a very important topic for us,” said Dr Vayalil.

“And that's how we have done our network. So, Burjeel is not just the highest end of the economic sector, but it's also the highest end of the clinical equity.”

The decision to integrate its assets under the Burjeel Holdings company is an extension of that philosophy, he said.

“This consolidation was important for us in so many ways; [for example] we want to make sure that the health information is shared … data is going to be consolidated in different hospitals, that is our fuel for growth.”

The experience for its patients — the company has 4.3 million outpatient interactions and 100,000 inpatients annually — would be improved following the integration, he said.

“The patient would also now feel the improvement in the turnaround times … For example, the lab reports, the appointments scheduling,” Dr Vayalil said.

“So, there will be definitely an incremental improvement in the patient experience, because that's the whole purpose, right? If you integrate, and you're not able to satisfy the patients, the whole purpose is defeated.”

The company aims to expand within the Gulf and African markets following the consolidation, he said.

“We are very bullish on the growth, especially Saudi Arabia. We already have some of our activities, which is continuing. And that's our natural next steps. But even locally, I think that still there's room to grow because we are not just focusing on the UAE population.”

During Covid-19, people who usually sought treatment outside the UAE instead received treatment domestically, which has helped to improve the “trust deficit”, he said.

“You're focusing on people who would fly in because we have developed great infrastructure, we have developed great competence. And people have started to trust the system, and not just the healthcare provider.”

Specialities such as oncology and orthopaedics would also be a focus of the expansion.

“These are two hot specialities that we want to focus on for now, and then it's paediatrics and specialities related to women's health,” said Dr Vayalil.

The company has made efforts to mitigate the challenge of hiring skilled medical staff for its expansion.

“There's always a shortage of skilled workforce, especially in medical sectors. So, we have announced plans to get into the medical schools,” he said.

“We have hospitals, which we ramped up during Covid. So we, in fact, during Covid, we had provided workforce to even our competitor hospitals.

“So, we believe that the training and workforce upskilling is something that is very important for us to grow.”


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