Thu | Oct 18, 2018

Portmore Hospital Complex expands with registration, market share in mind

Published:Wednesday | May 16, 2018 | 12:00 AMAvia Collinder/Business Reporter
Dr Devon Osbourne, co-owner of the Portmore Hospital Complex.
The Portmore Hospital Complex in St Catherine.
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Dr Devon Osbourne and Dr Karen Asher-Osbourne, owners of Portmore Hospital Complex Limited, figure that in six years they will reach break-even on their investments to expand the business and grow market share.

Portmore Hospital, which is now operating from new premises at Mega Way in the dormitory community, is now a 24-hour operation and the only private medical facility offering round-the-clock service, the Osbournes say.

In an interview with the Financial Gleaner that basically involved Devon, as his wife went from task to task on a busy day at the hospital, Osbourne said they acquired the property, which housed a medical centre, at Mega Way in 2014 from a local bank seeking to rid itself of nonperforming debt.

Since then, the cost of the acquisition and the funds invested in developing and expanding the centre have amounted to around $200 million, which the Osbournes have financed with bank loans.

Before the relocation in 2014, the couple had a medical practice at 10 Henderson Drive in Portmore, where they had operated for nearly three decades. That practice, said Osbourne, had been thriving, but the Mega Way facility offered the business an opportunity to grow.

 

SAW AN OPPORTUNITY

 

Although Portmore has other health facilities throughout the municipality, he described them as scattered and fragmented, while the nearest hospital is in Spanish Town, about 15 miles away.

"We saw how big a community Portmore had become. We had the know-how, the knowledge, the expertise. And so we had the opportunity. I said, 'Karen, I think we can do it'," he said.

The couple have been married since 1986.

Devon began practising medicine in Portmore in 1988, sharing time with his engagement at Kingston Public Hospital as a surgeon and urologist. He started with an evening practice, but as Portmore became more urbanised and its population grew, so did the medical business.

In the parish where Portmore resides,

St Catherine, the population is estimated at around 522,000 by Statin. Portmore itself accounts for over 182,000 of the parish populace.

"A comprehensive medical service was developed in response to need, and we added specialities in response to demand - tapping Kingston for specialists in which there was a glut," Devon reflected.

When the Mega Way complex, previously a medical centre owned by another doctor, came on the market, it was the opportunity the Osbournes needed to bring a range of services under one roof, as the complex already housed a pharmacy, and physiotherapy and X-ray services as tenants.

Asher-Osbourne was the one who reached out to the banks and worked to obtain a mortgage to finance the acquisition.

"I come up with the hare-brained ideas and my wife works out the financing," Osbourne chuckled during what was the second effort at interviewing the medical duo the first was derailed by a medical emergency at the hospital.

At the new location, the couple have added new specialisations as well as surgical equipment. And in 2017, the centre made the transition to a 24-hour operation in response to community demand.

By the end of 2018, the Osbournes expect to have Portmore Hospital Complex registered by the Ministry of Health as Portmore's first hospital. To this end, they are working towards compliance with ministry requirements, including the addition of a ward to offer care for more than 24 hours to patients.

The addition of the ward, along with complementary services, will cost another $20 million, Osbourne said.

Asher-Osbourne, who is an anaesthesiologist, says she expects Portmore Hospital Complex to recover its investments in another six years and reach a revenue target of $400 million annually by 2028.

The Portmore Hospital Complex, including its pharmacy, surgery, general medical and X-ray services, is also targeting a 20 per cent market share in 10 years, she said.

The Osbournes model their financial projections off estimates by the World Health Organization, WHO, which projects spending of US$44 ($5,500) per individual for health care annually. It is a conservative estimate, Asher-Osbourne acknowledged, while noting that surgery, for example, averages $200,000 per event.

For Portmore, the health services sector - inclusive of general medical, surgery and pharmaceuticals - is estimated as a $2-billion market, based on the WHO assessment of individual spend, she told the Financial Gleaner.

"The pie is big enough for more than us," Asher-Osbourne said.

Devon notes that one challenge faced by the business is keeping up with ever-changing medical technology, "which happens every day" and is costly.

To meet that challenge, he said, he and his partner have sought to be creative in their procurement strategies by seeking out overseas grants for the purchase of equipment and keeping close tabs on medical centres in the United States which change to first-generation technology frequently and sell the older equipment at large discounts.

"The technology we may have is second-generation, but we are satisfied that we are offering quality service," he said, noting that the hospital complex also offers laparoscopic surgery, which itself is on the cutting edge of services in the most modern centres.

As for medical staff, he said Portmore Hospital Complex has been able to recruit from a pool of young specialists in Kingston who have found themselves in competition with older and more established practitioners.

For them, he said, Portmore presented an opportunity to match skills with a population in need.

avia.collinder@gleanerjm.com