What innovations is FMC bringing to the health sector in Kurdistan?
FMC is creating real change in the health sector. Despite recent development in the sector, after 40 years of neglect in Kurdistan and Iraq, the healthcare system still needs significant improvement. FMC wants to correct this situation—to raise the baseline standards of healthcare provision across the country. The breadth and magnitude of services that FMC can provide reach far beyond Slemani; we are designed to serve all of Iraq. We hope that by offering world-class medical services to the country, that our systems, processes, standards, and innovations will be emulated by others, thereby improving the entire system.
To what degree has staffing the hospital been a challenge?
Over the past two years, we have worked very hard to hire well-qualified nurses to work here for long timeframes. Our nurses all have university degrees from nursing colleges, master's degrees, or specialty degrees, as well as years of experience in nursing. As such, we have hired nurses from all over the world, and we have developed an excellent nursing staff. The case is similar with technicians; we have found the most qualified technicians from around the world and brought them here. Many of the doctors are people like myself, who moved abroad, studied and worked in Europe or the US, and are now coming back, experts in their fields, to rebuild their country. To hire experts and specialists, we plan to draw initially on the Kurdish and Iraqi diaspora, but also target Europeans or Americans who are interested in joining FMC on a temporary or permanent basis. Our primary goal is to be a center of excellence, and as our reputation as such grows, it will become easier and easier to attract experts and specialists to practice at the hospital.
What efforts is FMC making towards the localization of your staff?
Because the practice of medicine in this country is, generally, not up to global standards, we face challenges in local staff from not following standard protocols, to issues as basic as showing up to work on time. However, we are addressing this. Our strategy is to work closely with nursing and medical schools in the Region; we have already had very productive discussions with the deans of these schools. Once we are firmly established, we will begin to hire recent graduates of these programs very early in their careers to work alongside our experienced doctors, nurses and technicians, to teach them the correct processes, procedures, and norms of a premier hospital, a bit like a residency program. Eventually, they will be integrated into the standard, full-time staff at the hospital. The owner of the hospital, Mr. Faruk Rasul, is very keen to invest in, and give back to the community, and is very keen to increase local staff while maintaining the hospital’s quality.
We hope that by offering world-class medical services to the country, that our systems, processes, standards, and innovations will be emulated by others, thereby improving the entire system.
How do you see healthcare in the Region evolving, more broadly, in the medium-term?
As I have said, and as has been repeated in many occasions by the Prime Minister of KRG, healthcare in the Region is starting from a very low base. As with many sectors in Kurdistan, development is progressing quickly, and healthcare is very much a part of this progression, but in many ways it is still not up to par. The KRG has targeted healthcare, in particular, for improvement and growth. In terms of that development, I think that FMC will be a leading model for others to follow. Additionally, within our own hospital, we will continue to invest heavily in expanding and deepening our services. For example, we have plans to develop a fully integrated oncology department behind our current hospital. This sort of investment is absolutely necessary for the Region and Iraq. Access to quality healthcare truly affects all of us, socially and economically. Currently those who can afford to go abroad for healthcare do, which is costly and problematic. FMC relieves that need. Healthcare is a key sector for all economies; in western countries healthcare tends to be the second biggest element of the public budget after social spending, which is telling of the sector's importance.
Will FMC be integrated into the international or local health insurance markets?
Yes, Faruk Group, our parent company, holds Asia Insurance, an insurance company with global ties, which will use FMC to deliver healthcare for its health insurance plans. Many companies already use Asia Insurance to insure their employees. However, some diseases and treatments should be covered by public spending, especially when treatment provides a broad public good. Different countries range on this scale, from proving full universal coverage for all healthcare expenses, to using public-private partnerships, where healthcare is covered by a mix of private health insurance and public subsidies. We expect from the government to solidify its policies regarding what it will and will not subsidize in terms of healthcare. We hope to be a part of this system, and we will provide the best services we can within the government's healthcare system.