By Joseph Maina
Director of Meditec Systems Limited, Mr Priten Patel, in an interview with Health Business Magazine at his Westlands offices, explained some of the remarkable gains that have been witnessed by industry players in the recent past. “The healthcare market in this country is very bullish,” he said.
“The Government has taken the right steps in terms of creating the right environment.” An increase in investment will provide the necessary impetus for Kenya’s health professionals who have immigrated to foreign lands in search of greener pastures to return, taking advantage of the higher returns that the industry is set to offer.
In addition, medical tourism will be reversed, with traffic of patients from Kenya to South Africa, India and other traditionally preferred destinations going down. Already, Kenya’s healthcare sector has seen payoffs from increased investment in technology, with Kenya emerging as the preferred medical tourism hub of the region.
And by incorporating the private healthcare providers in the list of accredited outlets for the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF), the government has in effect expanded the choices available for the Kenyan patient. This certainly is good news for the industry, Mr Patel said.
“From what we have seen in the short time since NHIF included the private healthcare providers, there has been a lot of interest among the private sector to invest in medical technology, thanks to the higher flow of patients coming through as a result of the new model”, he said.
Patel commended the current government for pushing this model to successful heights, while making special mention of the Cabinet Secretary for Health Dr Cleopa Mailu. The market has not had a smooth sailing all through, however. Among the key challenges has been the importation of second hand equipment.
A policy to control the influx of outdated or substandard medical technology, similar in principle to the policy that outlaws the importation of motor vehicles that are past a certain age, would ensure that only high quality equipment is in use in the country’s facilities.
He cites India and France as two examples of countries that have stepped up their policy frameworks in order to enhance the quality of health care equipment in their respective markets.
India, for instance, put a stop to the importation of second hand equipment, although it still allows for imports of equipment that have been re-manufactured at factory. Equipment that is re-manufactured at factory is an acceptable standard, even Meditec approves of and even supplies such equipment from Siemens and it comes with a certificate from the Siemens factory.
France, on the other hand, has imposed special rules requiring that medical equipment such as CT scanners must be replaced in three years. Another challenge, according to Mr Patel, involves VAT. “The removal of VAT would certainly have a huge impact on the costs related to healthcare,” he informed Health Business Magazine.
“There was previously no VAT on Medical Equipment and its introduction has had a negative impact on the investment and expansion of hospitals and private centres, with equipment and services now costing 16 per cent more.”
Mr Patel also takes exception to the new requirement on the need for pre-shipment inspection on medical equipment and spares, he says “The new requirement of Pre- shipment inspection on all medical items means we cannot bring in spare parts as quickly as we previously could, this could mean delays of up to 10-12 days to get critical equipment back to working condition.
This will really slow down the fast level of service that we were able to provide.” Meditec Systems Limited, under the aegis of the Vanguard Group of which it is a subsidiary, was among key healthcare providers who showcased their products at the just concluded Informa Life Sciences Exhibitions held at the Oshwal Centre, Westlands.
Its stand at the exhibition featured an open layout, well-lit and with ample space in which to walk about. Mr Patel exudes confidence in the potential of this high-profile event in furthering the business interests of his company, saying they have so far received glowing feedback from persons who visited the company’s stand.
Among the highlights of Meditec’s showcase was a newly launched CT scanner, by Siemens. There was also the laprascopic tower, used for minimal invasive surgery. The stand showcased the wider Vanguard Group, whose heritage spans just less than eight decades from its early set up in 1938. Next year, the Vanguard Group will celebrate its eightieth birthday.
Besides Meditec, the Vanguard Group owns a host of companies which include, among others, Nairobi X-Ray Supplies, Van Med, which is the orthopedic division, Fuji Kenya, Pan Pharmaceuticals, and Advanced Molecular Imaging Limited, which will be the radioactive pharmaceutical division.
Meditec is an Advanced Partner of Siemens. Mr Patel explained the nature of this business model, while highlighting other options available. Besides an advanced partner, there are distributors, also known as dealers, as well as approved partners.
In a typical arrangement, a dealer can make the sale, while the mother company would handle the installation and the rest of the services. An approved partner is one who is able to carry out the sales directly themselves, right from import, and they also take care of some of the services.
An advanced partner, such as Meditec, goes a higher level. “Our engineers are trained to the same level as Siemens engineers,” Mr Patel said. “They attend the same training that Siemens staff attends. They also have the same access privileges to the portals and intranets.”
It has been a fruitful partnership that goes back to 1993, with Meditec acting as Siemens’ exclusive partner in Kenya. In Tanzania and Uganda, the company represents Siemens for invitro- diagnostics.