Hospital operator Healthe Care has cemented its position as one of Australia’s biggest operators following its latest acquisition and now the Chinese-owned group is aiming to be a dominant player across the Asia Pacific region.
Healthe on Tuesday finalised its acquisition of 12 Australian and one New Zealand hospitals from Pulse Healthcare, a month after buying three hospitals from Evolution Healthcare.
Healthe now has 34 hospitals, including Westmead Rehabilitation Hospital and Bega Valley Private in NSW and Mackay Rehabilitation Hospital in Queensland.
The homegrown group, established in 2005, is Australia’s third-largest hospitals network behind Ramsay Health Care and Healthscope.
China’s Luye Medical, owned by Chinese billionaire Liu Dian Bo, acquired Healthe Care for $938 million in April 2016, adding it to a portfolio of health care services in China, South Korea and Singapore.
Healthe Care chief executive Steve Atkins says Chinese ownership gives the company he co-founded 12 years ago an edge over other healthcare companies wanting to do business in China.
Mr Atkins says the Chinese government has introduced health care reforms in the past four years which make it easier for private hospitals to grow and for international players to enter the market.
“China is an emerging market for private hospitals,” he said.
“We expect it will be the biggest market in the world at some stage in the future and it forms a big part of our growth strategy.”
Mr Atkins said previously doctors in China were only allowed to work at one site but now can work at multiple hospitals.
Also public “VIP suites” that offer hospital beds – usually single rooms with more staffing – at extra cost have been restricted, paving the way for the private sector to take up that demand.
“Things happen very quickly in China especially now that the reform agenda has taken place,” he said.
A report by research firm IBISWorld said ongoing health reforms will lead to an increase in private and foreign hospitals in China and forecasts total revenue for the sector to hit $492.4 billion by 2020.
People over 65 years old accounted for about 10 per cent of China’s population in 2014 and this is expected to grow.
Mr Atkins said Healthe wants to be a “Pan-Asia business” providing services through the Luye Medical group.
In the past 12 months, Healthe has provided a team of executives to work with Luye Medical on bringing Australian standards of health care to its Chinese hospitals and eventually the companies will share medical expertise.