BY GWENDOLYN NG
PRIVATE health-care providers in Singapore are stretching their wings to capitalise on the strength of markets such as China, Mongolia and Abu Dhabi.
In the past four months alone, three such companies made public their plans to expand overseas.
For instance, the Singapore Medical Group (SMG) announced plans to build a 50-bed hospital and 15 clinics around Mongolia last month. In August, the Healthway Medical Group said that it will manage 12 medical and dental centres in China with an investment worth about $7.6 million over a period of three months.
In fact, all five major private health-care providers here have already set up facilities, such as clinics and hospitals, abroad, with more projects on the way. In August, Q & M Dental Group also announced plans to invest $37 million over the next three years to expand its dental operations in China.
Q & M’s chief executive, Dr Ng Chin Siau, said: “Entering major cities such as Beijing and Nanjing will help the group to raise visibility of our Singapore brand and also serves as a springboard to other cities in China.”
International Enterprise (IE) Singapore, which promotes international growth of Singapore- based enterprises, also notes such a trend. The agency under the Ministry of Trade and Industry has helped various health-care players expand overseas and sees a growing interest of these companies in China, South-east Asia and the Middle East.
IE Singapore’s divisional director of business services, Ms Gina Kek, said: “Growing affluence, increasingly urban lifestyles and an ageing population have contributed to a…demand for quality health care in these emerging markets…providing opportunities for our healthcare players.”
She added that these markets with traditionally public- dominated health-care systems are gradually becoming more open to private health-care providers.
Dr Raj Komaran, an associate professor at the Singapore Management University’s Lee Kong Chian School of Business, said: “These private players usually provide for high-end patients as they are not out to compete with the country’s public health-care system.”
SMG’s hospital, set to be built in Mongolia’s capital of Ulan Bator, will position itself as a premium health-care provider, offering specialist treatment in areas such as oncology and cardiology. Mr Felix Huang, SMG executive chairman, said: “We hope to target those people who go overseas to seek treatment, we will try to retain them in Mongolia.”
Mr Huang revealed that an estimated US$450 million (S$587 million) is taken out of Mongolia each year by citizens seeking medical treatment elsewhere.
Setting up premium health-care facilities in Mongolia can help retain the country’s medical-tourism dollar, which also benefits the investor, he said.
Singapore health-care group Parkway Holdings, which has a global network of 18 hospitals and medical centres, reported a 7 per cent increase in revenue from the group’s international operations.
It earned $177.5 million in revenue in the first half of this year, up from $165.3 million in the same period last year.
Besides attracting investments, foreign governments are also looking for reputable providers to help raise their standards of health care.
Dr Jadamba Tsolman, Mongolia’s Vice-Minister of Health, said: “Singapore medicine is highly regarded internationally… SMG will help elevate the standard and profile of Mongolian health care.”
Ms Kek said: “The strong ‘Singapore brand’…and the high-quality standards of Singapore players…inspire confidence and trust from overseas partners.
This provides a smoother pathway to our medical groups as they explore expansion beyond Singapore.”
SMG set up a joint venture with the Chono Corporation in Mongolia to start its business there. The deal was struck after the wife of Chono Corporation’s owner, who lives in Singapore, sought medical treatment from an SMG clinic and was pleased with what she received.
Mr Huang said: “We always wanted to expand to Mongolia, but she was the one who crystallised the idea. She liked what we were doing and wanted to import it to her country.”