Interview with Arif Habib
Arif Habib, one of the leading business tycoons in Pakistan, despite of his endless preoccupations to oversee his business interests widely spread from capital market to steel making industry, huge real estate initiatives like Naya Nazimabad and REIT, energy and many other sectors, never forgets to spend his valuable time for the welfare activities specially healthcare sector and put his time and efforts for the cause of humanity.
Arif Habib who devotes his time and efforts for improvement in quality services of Memon Hospital, which in fact has become one of the leading hospitals in Karachi narrated the story how this hospital came into being in an interview:
Actually Memon Hospital is a community’s initiative said Arif Habib while recalling the idea of setting up a quality hospital in Karachi. In fact the idea of developing a hospital came to mind when there was an accident of PANAM Airline and the people affected in the accident suffered serious hardships due to non-existence of any hospital in close vicinity of the airport. It was the time when Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto advised the Sindh government for establishing a hospital located close to the airport, taking lead of the advice, the then Sindh government decided to set up a big hospital near Safora Chowk at the tail end of University Road, also close to the airport as well as cantonment area.
However the project could not be completed despite construction of the building structure of the hospital but lying incomplete. Then the government decided to privatize this hospital structure. When it was offered for bidding the elders of the Memon community sit together and decided to purchase this building, they offered a successful bid and get the title of the land and building transferred to trust of Memon Hospital after that the hospital was operational with an investment of Rs1.5 billion in the year of 2011.
Since I was quite active in the process of hospital development, the elders of the community elected me as the Chairman of the Memon Hospital for a tenure of two years and then again reelected me as the chairman for the second tenure.
All the trustees were required to contribute at least Rs10 million in the hospital fund besides trustee’s fee the philanthropists of the community also adopted various wards and sections of the hospital. As a result of tireless efforts of the trustees ensuring quality of the medical services offered by the hospital and the doctors helped earning a good reputation of the hospital and now the replacement value of the hospital has been multiplied many times.
The Board of Directors continuously monitors the performance of the hospital to ensure constant improvement in the quality services of the hospital. In fact the efforts of our elders produced results and now this hospital has become a quality medical institution for the metropolitan city of Karachi.
After completion of the first phase of the hospital there are plans for development of second phase of the hospital, construction of another building for phase two of the hospital and also construction of a nursing school etc.
He clarified that although the hospital was mainly developed with the initiative of the community elders yet the hospital services and facilities are open to everyone without any discrimination. The hospital looks after every one and special care is taken for the needy patients under a welfare scheme of the hospital, however, there is no discrimination between paying patients and welfare patients as the doctors are not informed about the financial status of the patients they are required to treat each and every patient at par. There is a big budget for welfare patients but the number of paying patient was also increasing day-by-day due to good and quality services offered by the quality doctors and other paramedical staff.
PAGE: Is the hospital commercially viable or still being run through donations?
ARIF HABIB: Actually as far as hospital is concerned it has attained a break even status but for the sake of expansion of services, development of second hospital and schools for training and education of paramedical staff, we still need donations.
PAGE: Generally speaking the country is suffering from the lack of quality medical services especially for the common man, there is no social security concept exist in our society, recently Prime Minister has initiated a health scheme and distributed cards among the needy yet it will not address the issue, the hospitals run by the government are in a pathetic conditions and require improvement of services, availability of medicines, equipments and doctors. Don’t you think this issue should be tackled jointly and the management of all the government hospitals should be looked after under government and private partnership?
ARIF HABIB: Yes you are right there is a lot of room of improvement in healthcare sector because we have a huge population but the number of quality hospitals is very limited when compared to the size of the population.
The public and private partnership is of vital importance for improvement of quality medical services in the country. In this respect, the government can earmark land and for development of a hospital building and after completion of building structure it should be handed over to the private sector for equipment and hospital management that would hopefully bring a visible change in the medical services of the country. This kind of model are existing in some places in the country like NICVD, Indus Hospital, SUIT etc which are doing well and it is because of their excellence performance the private sector is also coming forward and offering donations for running such kind of institutions, in this backdrop a serious thought is required to be given to this idea to foster public-private partnership in healthcare sector in Pakistan.
PAGE: Don’t you think that the budgetary allocation for the health sector is insignificant and should be increased to improve healthcare sector in Pakistan?
ARIF HABIB: Yes no doubt the budgetary allocations can be substantiated by the government in the form of earmarking land and development of building structure for the hospitals in different parts of the country and this land structure can be offered to the private sector on the basis of public-private sector partnership and our private sector on the back of its track record can lend a helping hand more professionally to provide quality health services to the people of Pakistan.
Actually every institution whether it is health or any sector it should be commercially viable and to achieve that target we always need expert and honest professionals from the private sector and there is no dearth of people in the private who always willing to devote their time and energy for welfare initiatives.
Since health issues are basic human need, the society as a whole including government, private sector, communities and professional should come forward and contribute for the sake of humanity.