Manipal Hospitals, which acquired Columbia Asia Hospitals recently for ₹2,100 crore and has 27 hospitals across 15 cities with over 7,300 beds and access to over 4,000 doctors and over 10,000 employees is now gearing up to help several state governments in its vaccination drive. In an interview with BusinessLine, Dilip Jose, CEO, Manipal Hospitals, shares the group’s preparation ahead of the vaccine roll-out. Edited excerpts:
How is the Manipal Hospital Group getting ready to roll out the Covid-19 vaccination drive?
Manipal Hospitals have been at the forefront of the battle against Covid-19. Similarly, we will continue to be involved in the vaccination drive as well. We are currently awaiting guidelines from the Central and State Governments as to how they plan to involve private hospitals in the vaccination drive. We are ready to follow those directions. As of now, we are ready in supporting the training of vaccinators, with caregivers and logistics wherever feasible.
How has the Covid-19 pandemic posed a challenge to the hospitals’ infrastructure of hospitals and influenced their functioning?
The pandemic has severely tested the resolve and resilience of all healthcare organisations and hospitals have been no exceptions. We, in fact, had an added dimension, given the need to be in the frontline of dealing with the virus. Unlike other sectors, work from home (WFH) was not an option for healthcare providers and ensuring the safety and morale of doctors, nurses and technicians has been a key additional challenge for hospitals. At the same time, the pandemic also brought out options to innovate, learn, collaborate across boundaries and fast track technology adoption, including digital routes, many of which would outlive Covid-19 and influence the way healthcare facilities function in the future.
How did the Manipal Hospital group manage in pre and post Covid-19 care?
Manipal Hospitals have been actively involved in management of Covid, right from the beginning. Apart from treating our own patients, we have been working closely with various state governments to support hospitals in the public sector ― by remotely managing ICUs, supplementing medical teams, working in expert groups, besides managing fever clinics and Covid-19 care centres. Considering the long-term health impact of this virus infection, we remain engaged with our recovered patients, especially those who are at higher risk, to help them identify and manage post recovery complications or risks.
What has been the progress made so far in the latest acquisition of Columbia Asia Hospitals and its integration with Manipal Hospitals?
The proposed acquisition of Columbia Asia by Manipal Hospitals is now under the customary review of regulatory authorities and the transaction would consummate only after their approval is obtained. During this interval, the guidelines require both the organisations to function on ‘arms-length’ basis and the process of integration can begin only on completion of the deal. Given that there are multiple facets of both entities that need to come together and function as one ― for example, operating structure and processes, clinical systems, customer interface, and IT architecture, among others, the current period is more about thinking through the priorities of addressing these and to conceptualise the likely scenarios.
How will the integration of both the hospitals benefit the patients?
While there are obvious synergies of scale in various areas when Columbia Asia and Manipal Hospitals come together, this merger is really about the people and processes of both, that add significant value to the integrated entity. It would allow clinicians of both hospitals to practice at new locations, thus improving access for the communities we serve, improve turn-around times, enhance our teaching programmes and give employees a great opportunity to learn from both systems. All of these would benefit our patients and their families, which in turn would help us to be a differentiated healthcare provider.
Now that the acquisition has been initiated, what are the kind of best practices that could come out of the integration?
A strong cultural fit was one of the fundamental reasons for Columbia Asia and Manipal Hospitals to embark on this journey, as that would be a catalyst to a successful integration. Both organisations also have strong people policies and operating processes. Therefore, the plan is not to amalgamate Columbia Asia into Manipal Hospitals, which would imply that all current practices of the latter would continue, but to look at everything side by side and go ahead with the practices that are more relevant in the current context. The idea is to approach the integration with an open mind and decide what the best course forward is.