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‘The healthcare sector needs to be run optimally not as a pseudo-charity’

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Oluwarotimi Oladokun Okula is the Managing Partner of Le Groenland Business Solutions FZ LLE, Dubai, UAE, a medical industry service provider focused on Sub Saharan African Countries. A graduate of Management and Accounting from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria, he is a Chartered Accountant with over 15 years in the financial services industry and over six years experience in Healthcare Service industry. In this interview, he spoke about the global healthcare as relates to Sub Saharan Africa, the misconceptions and challenges of medical tourism.

Tell us about your organisation’s activities?
Le Groenland Business Solutions FZ LLE, a company licensed & regulated in the United Arab Emirates, with a presence in Dubai was set up in 2015. It is a member of the Le Groenland Group with business interest in the Gulf and Sub Saharan Africa Countries. We are a service provider to the healthcare industry with focus on Sub Saharan African Countries. Our Core Services are Medical Evacuation and Tourism Facilitation Services, Medical Equipment and Supplies Broking Services and Providing Business and Financial Advisory Services for the Healthcare Industry Players in Sub Saharan African Countries.

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What in your opinion are the opportunities and challenges in the industry today?
The Healthcare sector is historically one of the very few industries that has not suffered a financial depression, as they say, “Health is Wealth”. Therefore, the opportunities in the industry are enormous, for finance and insurance companies, there is effective demand for health services, there are also huge opportunities in health insurance in Sub Saharan African Countries as less than 20 per cent of nationals have health insurance cover.

For Manufacturers of Healthcare Equipment, there is a huge demand in Sub Saharan African Countries as there is gross equipment and supplies deficit, for Business and Financial Advisory firms – the healthcare industry in Sub Saharan African Countries requires financial & business re-engineering to take it to the next level, this will require the services of Business and Financial Experts. As with all industries, the healthcare sector in Sub Saharan Africa has its enormous challenges amongst which are infrastructural and amenities challenges, high foreign exchange rate affecting the purchase of needed medical equipment, brain drain challenges as our best hands are usually leaving for perceived greener pastures, lack of funding by local financial institutions and where finance is available it is usually short term, government apathy towards the growth of the industry amongst others. Based on our experience dealing with healthcare facilities globally, our short term proffered solutions to the challenges in the healthcare sector in Sub Saharan Africa is that practitioners should, first of all, pay less attention to seeking any support from the public sector as the status quo of inept leadership does not appear to likely change in the political space at least in the short run.

For us the expected change in the healthcare sector in Sub Saharan Africa will most likely be from Private Sector Initiatives, the healthcare sector needs to be run optimally and commercially and not as a pseudo-charity, this will ensure profitability and ensure availability of funds to re-invest in equipment and supplies, pay competitive salaries to quality doctors and retain them. Profitability of any venture is key to encouraging financiers and investors in any sector; in essence, Healthcare Sector in Sub Saharan Africa must be presented and run as a profitable venture which it is, that is when much-needed capital will be injected into it by investors.

What has been the effect of COVID-19 on your business?
As a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic, our Medical Evacuation and Tourism Facilitation Services was grossly affected as the travels and tours related businesses globally were the worst hit in the COVID-19 era. As a company, when the pandemic became full blow by March 2020 and upon realising the challenges ahead, we decided to retain existing staff, suspend new recruitment plans to manage cost, we re-strategised and focused more on aggressively building more partnerships across the value chain of the healthcare sector in Sub Saharan Africa. To this end, we grew over Patients Referral Partnerships from 322 partners in March ending 2020 to 1,890 partners by June, 2021, we also grew our Treatment Hospital Partnerships from 50 in March Ending 2020 to 85 by June, 2021. Whilst the pandemic has been challenging to us, it also has become an opportunity for our company to take our business to the next level. During the pandemic era, we also began a unique type of Medical Evacuation and Tourism Facilitation Service between patients and hospitals in Sub Saharan African countries. We currently partner with 15 Treatment Hospitals in three Sub Saharan African Countries that is Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya, we refer patients to these hospitals in areas they have shown proven competencies. It is also our company’s show of confidence in the health sector in Sub Saharan Africa and our belief that things will surely get better in the nearest future. Whilst there are some misconceptions about Medical Tourism Facilitators in Healthcare in Sub Saharan Africa, it is important to note the service is not directly the cause of the challenges in the Healthcare industry but rather is a part of the solutions to the challenges the Healthcare Industry in Sub Saharan African currently faces. The misconceptions can be likened to blaming doctors for patients falling sick, doctors did not directly cause the patients to be sick, and they are actually solution providers.

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What is the future of Le Groenland Business solutions?
Our overall objective is to be the topmost service provider in the Healthcare Sector in Sub Saharan Africa. To achieve this objective, we have broken down our plans into Short, Medium and Long Term Plans. Our Short Term Plan is to have the largest partnerships and collaborations under our Medical Evacuation and Tourism Facilitation Services in Sub Saharan Africa. We currently have over 1,890 Patients Referral Partners in 29 Sub Saharan African Countries. These partnerships form the base for our other services such as standing as a formidable brokerage company for sales/purchase of Medical Equipment and Supplies; and Business & Financial Advisory Services for the Healthcare Sector in Sub Saharan Africa. Under our Medium Term Plan, we have created a platform that serves as an interface between our global healthcare partners and healthcare partners and practitioners in Sub Saharan African countries where there is the exchange of ideas and knowledge thereby sharpening the skills of Healthcare Practitioners in Sub Saharan Africa. We commenced this initiative in November 2019 where we facilitated the visit of the board of one of the biggest public sector hospital in Lagos, Nigeria to our partner hospital in the UAE – Saudi German Hospital, Dubai. The Board Members visited the facilities, equipment, exchanged ideas and also discussed partnership options amongst others.

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Our long term plan is to stimulate foreign direct investments in the healthcare sector in Sub Saharan Africa, via the building of Hospitals this will be achieved through partnerships we have formed and still forming, we plan to set up healthcare equipment financing companies that would provide medical equipment financing solutions with long term funding to Healthcare Practitioners to create access to much-needed equipment and supplies, boost and improve service delivery in the healthcare sector in Sub Saharan Africa and thereby ensure growth.

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