IHH on expansion mode


The group named Indonesia and Vietnam as key examples of where it might consider expanding into.

KUALA LUMPUR: IHH Healthcare Bhd is eyeing expansion into new markets in the vicinity of the countries it is operating in.

The group named Indonesia and Vietnam as key examples of where it might consider expanding into.

“Other than expansion into existing markets, we are looking at new markets as well. We are doing the business development part of things and we have not made any specific decisions,” its group chief executive officer Prem Kumar Nair said at a press briefing yesterday after its AGM.

Prem Kumar said factors the group had to take into consideration include the attractiveness of the market, manpower availability and its proximity to current markets.

“It makes no sense to go to Latin America for example. But in the Asean region, yes, such as Indonesia and Vietnam, we will look at it. These are very attractive countries now.

“Economically, there is a lot of wealth being created and bigger usage of private insurance,” Prem Kumar said.

“Indonesia is very interesting because there are many from here coming into Singapore and Malaysia for treatment.

“Even the profile of patients coming has changed a lot – from wealthy patients before to many middle and upper-income persons and they have private health insurance.

“We have spoken to the (relevant) parties about it – the authorities and some other hospitals to make an assessment,” he added.

Prem Kumar said regulations were also becoming more favourable in Indonesia compared to pre-Covid times, adding that its economic environment there is improving as well.

“The problem in Indonesia has always been the availability of doctors because of the system, whereby foreign doctors cannot go in and practice.

“But under the new administration now with the new health minister, they have come to Malaysia and Singapore to attract new players to enter.

“They have opened medical registration to foreign doctors –especially Indonesian doctors themselves, who were trained overseas (such as in the West) – they couldn’t register before,” he said.

Prem Kumar also said Indonesia’s health authorities were stepping up the training of local medical specialists, which the country was short of presently.“These are all very positive developments but we still have to watch and see how this translates into actual care and service in Indonesian hospitals. There are a lot of other hospitals which are also doing very well there,” Prem Kumar added.

In Vietnam, he noted some private hospitals had already entered the country such as Thomson Medical Group and Raffles Medical.

Meanwhile, IHH also noted the shortage of nurses in some markets and this has resulted in the industry having to increase the profession’s salaries and introduce flexi-hours to attract and retain people.

“This is a global issue and healthcare also cannot be fully automated,” Prem Kumar said.

On the rise in medical insurance premiums, of which insurers have often cited reasons for higher charges from private hospitals, Prem Kumar acknowledged this and said higher charges were due to rising manpower costs and improved medical technology.

“New medical technologies are expensive, such as proton therapy for cancer, but we have to introduce this if it is good for the patient. I really don’t see healthcare costs coming down and they will only continue to go up.

“But we have to do all we can to reduce costs in other areas, such as procurement and being more efficient at the backend, such as workforce transformation.

“Insurers will also have to keep up, but to be fair to them, they would also need some leeway to raise premiums.

“In some countries, the authorities will allow them to increase, but in some, the authorities are very conscious to keep costs low for policyholders.

“This has to be managed well,” he added.

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