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The face behind compassionate health care
November 2, 2014, 1:58 pm
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At Shifa Al-Jazeera Medical Group, patients are assured of affordable quality health care, and that is largely due to the principles of its founder, Chairman Dr. K.T. Rabeehullah. Starting off as a simple man he has overcome life’s tough hurdles to eventually become the chairman of Shifa Al-Jazeera Medical Group. Currently, he oversees 20 healthcare units, one Clinic and several pharmacies in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar.

Despite reaching great success, he has remained humble and down-to-earth; choosing to believe that service to humanity is a greater reward than money. In recognition of his philanthropic endeavors, he was conferred with the prestigious Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award, the highest honor bestowed to an overseas Indians. Recently, Dr. Rabeehullah took a break from his busy schedule to talk with The Times Kuwait in a revealing interview.

Please tell us a little about the launch of your career?

I began work as an ordinary laborer on a small salary; years of hard work, dedication and a strong willpower to give back something to the society, inspired me to move to Jeddah to start a Medical Center. I changed the way the healthcare sector operated, making it more publicized and accessible to the general public.

Shifa Al Jazeera became a benchmark for affordable healthcare without compromising on quality.  The usually soaring rates of Consultation and X-rays were brought down to almost 80 percent at Shifa Al Jazeera Medical Centers. I can proudly say, By the Grace of God, there are nearly 400,000 patients who visit my clinics. The policy of Shifa Al-Jazeera Medical Group is that, we promise excellent service and reasonable rates.

What has made your clinic so successful?

We have the trust of patients because of the high standard of our services and facilities. Moreover, we are honest and upfront with our patients. Many Clinics tend to overcharge or order unnecessary extra tests. At our Clinic, we listen to the patient and prescribe only the required tests. No doctor overcharges or tries to make money from the patient, we value their trust.

In medical care, caring is important not making money alone, I only believe in the service part of medical care, profit doesn’t concern us. Also there are about 150 patients that need to be referred to the various Hospitals on a daily basis, as we operate as a Clinic. I am planning to build a Hospital to accommodate these referral cases of Shifa Medical Group alone. By this, I want to make it more convenient for our patients.

You have mentioned you value customer service, how do you ensure your staff reflect your dedication?

I advocate for excellent service and strengthening doctor-patient relationships in healthcare, so I make sure to hire staff that represent the Shifa brand well. I should say I am qualified and experienced in understanding the psychology of a person at the first meeting itself.  So I am personally involved in the selection process of my staff by going along with our well qualified and experienced recruitment team as per my schedule. I have employed professionals specifically for customer service because that is an important aspect of healthcare.

My staff are a mix of professionals recruited from Tunisia, Egypt, Thailand, Philippines and India. I focus on employing doctors from different countries because it opens up my Medical Center to different nationalities and fosters a mixed culture.

How do you stay active with such a hectic schedule?

My policy to stay young and fit is that “Don’t take a look at your watch while you work, but make sure you check your watch when you sit Idle. I always need to be active else I feel I have wasted a precious day that I could have made more productive.

A fixed routine of a long shower followed by a session of yoga helps me prepare for the day. This has been my habit for the past 8 years.  Moreover, I will continue to strive for excellence till I retire, I have the motivation and zeal for life.

Do you find it challenging to provide such good facilities at a low cost?

My prices may be significantly reduced compared to other clinics, but the number of patients who visit us for their Medical Care are definitely high. For example, the Medical Center in Farwaniya receives more than 1000 patients. When other Clinics demand additional consultation fees to deal with only 200 patients, I believe in reasonable fees and more reach to the people. I don't like the idea of excessively charging patients. The patient’s happiness is my satisfaction.

Did you face any difficulties in your career?

I had a terrible experience in my initial days of starting my clinic. My sponsor seized my medical centers in Saudi Arabia. For eight months, my family and I had to remain imprisoned in our house as he had taken away all my documents. We were confined to my house, as we had no passport or Ikama. It was a terrible time in my life. That’s when I was totally broke. But I made sure I stayed confident and did not allow this situation to disturb me. I ended up losing a substantial amount to settle this issue. But then, I had to focus and gather my strength and I arose like a Phoenix and now I have 22 medical centers all across the Middle East and assets worth 50 crores.

What has been your best achievement in your current position as Chairman?

For the last 12 years, I have adopted young children in my native village of East Kodur in Kerala, and covered their expenses for schooling and travel. I have set up a pension scheme for 500 people that have improved their standard of living. Aside from this, I have built houses for villagers; made sure they had running water and provided families with electricity. I have appointed two administrators onsite to do all the necessary work for the transformation of my village and to make a better living environment for my brethren there.

The people of my village appreciate and love me for all the work I have done for their development.  For the special Onam festival celebrated in Kerala, I distributed Onam kits and for Eid, I sent Eid kits to add more colour and happiness to their celebrations.

Also, I want to mention the free counseling services that will be available in my Clinic in Kuwait. I have noticed in Kuwait that people do not see the value for life and end their lives for petty issues. They do not have the strength to face the problems that come in their way, they want easy, quick solutions and that they find in committing suicide. I feel sorry for my fellow beings who take this beautiful life and their family for granted. I am bringing in a psychiatrist to offer counseling on various mental issues from depression to relationship problems. Financial problem should not be a reason to think about suicide anymore and for that I am ready to support them in whichever best ways I can.

What is the reason behind your charity work?

My view is as I grow, the people around me should grow as well and that is possible only if I take the time to help them. I believe in humanity, and my intention is to help mankind through my charity work.

Despite being a successful businessman, I don’t care for commercializing this profession. Ethics guide me in life, and I want to spread my message that healthcare should not be commercialized and be accessible to everyone.  Healthcare should be more service oriented and affordable. My Clinic is similar to other Clinics in many aspects, but I get more patients because I charge less and provide high quality service.

I also believe in helping others in whatever way I can. Recently, there was the case of a dead body in the morgue in Kuwait that no one was stepping forward to claim. I bore all the monetary responsibilities to ensure that the body was returned safely to his hometown. At this point I want to guarantee and assure my help in any such cases in Kuwait. There should be no deceased lying in the mortuary because they do not have money to do the formalities and clear the body from Kuwait.

What plans do you have for the new Clinic in Abbasiya?

The new Clinic has been fitted with updated facilities and also the best doctors have been taken in for our various departments. Everything is ready for the Grand Opening on the 28 November 2014. To make the occasion memorable, Medical Care cards will be handed out to expatriates in Abbasiya as well as to students and various associations after 28 November. The opening is going to be star studded event with the presence of South Indian mega-star Padmasri Bharat Dr. Mammootty and veteran Bollywood actress Juhi Chawla along with Malayalam Film Stars Kunchacko Boban and Bhama.

What are some of your long term goals?

I would like to expand my business and improve healthcare facilities in places like Dubai, Sharjah, Abu Dhabi, Malaysia and Bulgaria. My future dream project is to build more Clinics. It would be exciting to build a medical center and one dental center in America too. It will probably be my next project.

What qualities have made you a successful businessman?

With my efforts, I have built an excellent Medical Center with skilled doctors and the best facilities.  I have inspired a love for the Shifa brand in patients, and I think this is due to my behavior and treatment of others.  I treat everyone with respect. The professionals in my staff are polite, humble and committed to the Clinic. Aside from hard work, the qualities I value are politeness and generosity.

By my example, I would also like to appeal to all the businessmen of the GCC countries to be generous and donate for the Jammu and Kashmir relief funds too.  

What advice do you have for other budding entrepreneurs?

All new businessmen must have confidence and should handle losses, and only then will they grow. I have been successful by investing hard work and passion in my Clinic. In business, I have had my share of loses, but I am steadfast that there is nothing impossible for a human being to do with loving support of family and trustworthy and dependable friends. My advice is that one should always believe in your goals and Strive hard to achieve it whatever hindrances you might have to face. My support and experience can always be counted on by the young budding entrepreneurs. 

Christina Pinto
Staff Writer
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