Nthabiseng Legoete, a South African physician, has attracted the attention of international investors by creating a network of clinics providing quality medical services for affordable prices. The first Quali Health Clinic started operating in May 2016 in the Diepsloot community and nowadays it serves around 3 thousand patients per month. Diepsloot is in the northern region of Johannesburg, where there are around 1 million people living and most of the people earn a low salary income and are needy of infrastructure, electricity, basic sewage, and healthcare.
“Our target market is composed of people who currently depend on the public healthcare system”, says Legoete, who is from Springs, an underprivileged community 50 km from Johannesburg and deeply aware of the reality of her country. “These people are forced to choose between going to work or taking a health exam. This means they do not need to miss work to care for their health neither neglect health to assure their work”. She remembers in July 2015, her uncle passed away after neglecting a perfectly treatable health problem because he did not want to miss a workday to go to a public health clinic.
The public healthcare situation in South Africa is not different from the reality of other developing countries. Although the Country invests around 9% of its GDP on healthcare, these public investments are not able to meet the high demand for medical care. “I have had the opportunity to work in the public medical sector as well as the private and due to this I am able to understand the challenges in both sectors”, she reveals. “The private healthcare system works more efficiently and provides better resources, but it is very expensive. However, the public healthcare system is completely the opposite. There are few resources, it is not efficient, and it is characterized by long waiting lines”, she laments. “We are expanding in the healthcare sector. We are becoming more inclusive and more affordable and thus, the government cannot be solely responsible for healthcare for citizens”.
According to Legoete, Quali Health has been based on three pillars: affordability, convenience, and quality. The price of an appointment at one of the clinics in the network costs an equivalent of USD$ 21 and includes exams, medication, and a return visit, if the patient is not feeling well after 7 days. “No one knows what interventions are necessary when one makes the decision to care for one’s health. So, we set an all-inclusive price”, she explains. The clinic provides medical services including ultrasound, vaccinations, prenatal care, arterial pressure verification, and blood exams, and such tests as HIV and pregnancy, besides just the normal appointments.
The clinics are open 7 days a week and 12 hours per day. Information systems assure rapid medical care, from 20 to 30 minutes — and no waiting lines. Technology also helps in monitoring diagnoses, facilitating treatments, and cutting costs. “Our medical services are one of the first paperless solutions in the country”, she boasts. “We also encourage our team to be friendly to patients, treating them as guests”. But, according to her, the most important pillar is quality. “We are trying to restore dignity and respect that low-income people are missing”.
The Quali Health model, currently employs around 5,000 people and it is attracting the attention of local and foreign investors interested in providing medical services to the entire country and other places as well. “My ambition is to provide high quality medical care to all South Africans. We have demonstrated that economically marginalized communities can be served sustainably. Our focus is now on rapid expansion”, she believes.
Legoete is emphatic against criticism. “They have told me to build something more sustainable or use technology in another way. But a person who has been shot or suffered an accident needs immediate medical care and not a Fitbit”, she defends. “I am making a difference in people’s lives”.
Nthabiseng Legoete, when visiting India saw people who did not have any medical insurance coverage using affordable private medical care in a hospital in Bangalore. Thus, to introduce something similar in her own country, she put together all her savings and got loans from friends and family. Then after opening her first clinic, the physician sought funding from the Development Bank of South Africa (DBSA) to open another three units around Johannesburg.