A new player in the Eastern Cape private hospital industry has opened the doors to its East London facility, the 150 bed Royal Buffalo Specialist Hospital.
The hospital is situated close to Frere Hospital and carries a price tag of almost R200m.
According to its administrator John Congo, this is the best and most modern hospital in South Africa.
Congo said he would be surprised if any other hospital in South Africa could match their buildings, facilities and brand new equipment.
As state facilities continue to fall apart due to a lack of maintenance, shortages and budget issues, healthcare continues to be a critical need not just in the Eastern Cape.
Royal Buffalo’s opening follows another hospital that is also due to open soon in Beacon Bay, Cure Day hospital.
The Life group is the leading private healthcare hospital provider in East London, with five hospitals under its care.
“I took the challenge of running RBSH because I want to have the opportunity of creating a culture of excellence for every patient,” Congo said.
“All our staff, and we now have 200 for the launch and will have 300 in a month or so, must buy into our goals of excellence in every facet.
“There are probably another 200 people working for our suppliers of goods and services, and I expect the same from them.”
RBSH is owned and managed by Africa Health Care (AHC), a wholly-owned subsidiary of RH Bophelo Limited.
The group owns and manages 19 hospitals and healthcare facilities throughout the country.
Most are in Gauteng, but the Eastern Cape presently has only RBSH. Other hospitals are in KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, North West, Free State, Gauteng and the Western Cape.
While AHC seeks to provide the broadest specialisation services, the end decision rests with the specialists who rent premises; they will establish surgeries where demand exists.
AHC itself does not employ specialists.
RBSH has been recruiting and training staff for some time.
Congo said there was no truth in the accusation that RBSH had been poaching staff from other hospitals with offers of higher salaries.
“Yes, we are paying people good salaries but I don’t think that is the attraction. I believe our salaries are fair.”
Why are some of the best people joining us? Because they want to work in a brand new hospital, with excellent innovation, good structures and culture, and a harmonious management style
He said RBSH cannot afford to pay over the top because that would have a negative impact on the bottom line.
“Why are some of the best people joining us? Because they want to work in a brand new hospital, with excellent innovation, good structures and culture, and a harmonious management style.
“We want to bring back dignity to the healthcare profession in East London.”
He said people who know about hospitals would be surprised by RBSH.
“We have designed this facility to be more efficient than most others. I believe that this hospital, in East London, is the best in the country.
“Take our maternity ward. We have put an operating theatre in the section, so in an emergency the patients and doctors have immediate access; no waiting time, or being pushed down corridors.
“Specialists don’t like waiting for a general theatre, and here they do not have to. We call it the mother and child unit and it is unique in this country, though Australia and the USA do have similar places.”
He said another feature of the hospital was that it has a separate paediatric intensive care unit.
He said no cost had been spared regarding spaciousness, from wards to offices and passages.
“We have purchased equipment that is the very best available.”
Doctors and specialists are not employed by the hospital, he said, which is a common practice for all leading private groups.
The practices are run by the doctors and they effectively rent their offices and surgeries from RBSH.
“My path to RBSH administration and management was not the traditional route. I am an electrical engineer and moved into production after qualifying.”
Congo, who was born and educated in the Congo, ventured into the healthcare industry when he joined Life Healthcare as a services manager in Cape Town and within 18 months was promoted to the head office in Johannesburg as a regional engineering manager.
His career took a turn away from engineering when he joined Clinix Health Group, and became a servicing manager, a job where he controlled every non-medical aspect of a hospital, right down to laundry and catering.
“This included buying and installing equipment.”