Interview with Abdulla Ajmal, President of AMSA Group |22 July 2022
‘As long as our patients are happy, we are happy’
Recently the President of AMSA Group, Abdulla Ajmal, visited Seychelles and also met with the press to talk about AMSA, a service/business he holds deep in his heart.
Seychelles NATION: Mr Ajmal please tell us how did you start AMSA and why?
Abdulla Ajmal: We are from Assam in the northeastern part of India and we are in the perfumery business. We have other businesses as well but I am involved in the perfumery business. As a family, we have multiple interests; and now we are getting into health and education as well. We have got a considerable understanding of the healthcare market and how it runs but honestly, I never thought about getting into it directly.
Why I started AMSA? My youngest uncle, who was my mentor and friend as well, unfortunately passed away in 2012 due to renal failure. It was quite traumatic for the family, and I was quite affected by it. So, I went to meet with his nephrologist. I do not know why though. I just wanted to thank him I guess, and the doctor started crying. He said my uncle had left a substantial amount with him for people; especially for expatriates who needed to do some sessions before they leave for their own country and continue over there as Dubai is very expensive. My uncle never mentioned it to his own wife or to anyone. I was really taken by that. We contacted some charities and said we wanted to do dialysis.
So initially the thought was sort of altruistic and not that it’s not a charity that we do but our pricing is such and we work a lot with charities. Majority of our patients are actually the patients that come through charity and the charities pay for them and the pricing also that we give is extremely and is probably one of the lowest in the country. That’s how this whole thing started and that’s how I got into this gig.
Seychelles NATION: How did you end up in Seychelles?
Abdulla Ajmal: We were told in 2015 that the government was trying a public private partnership model and wanted to start with dialysis. After a selection process, it was the generosity of the Seychelles government that allowed us to serve the people of Seychelles and we've partnered with them for now almost seven years and it has been an amazing experience. We bring best practices to all our patients; for example we don't use our kits more than once which is unusual, we had a very good run up till now our patients are extremely satisfied with our services. We had no deaths due to renal failure since we have come on board and I think that's a huge achievement and it's also obviously the grace of the Almighty at the end of the day, we try and do our best but at the end of the day that's what counts and our service to Seychelles was, people has been our commitment, has been resolute to provide transport, food etc. It's been a great experience and an amazing feeling to be able to serve the people. A lot of thanks has to be given to the health ministers and special thanks to the Health Care Agency and its management for the support that they provided to us for all these years and continue doing so.
Globally, eight percent is the mortality rate due to renal failure. I am very proud to say that we have not had even a single death due to renal failure since we took over.
Seychelles NATION: What would you say have been the major challenges in these past years since 2015?
Abdulla Ajmal: There have been some regulatory challenges. Seychelles is a country that is very politically driven. Everybody is really vested in the political side of things, so that makes things a bit difficult. Regardless of all the good that we have done here, there will always be some people who will not be happy with the presence of AMSA, and that’s ok. Other than that, I think it has been a good run. Both governments have been very supportive and provided us with whatever requirements we needed.
The biggest challenge here is the fact that there is nothing produced in Seychelles. Everything has to be imported. The smallest of things have to be imported, even gloves and everything. You can imagine during the period of Covid, the logistics were a nightmare. We have paid as high as ten times the normal price and still, we’re paying the premium for shipping everything. All the kits and medicine have to come in advance. This is a huge challenge for us, but we didn’t let that stop us either. So even during the period where we couldn’t get things in, we still manage to do it either via Dubai or rather than ship, we flew them in. We didn’t let the cost of it affect us.
In most countries, including the US, they use the kit more than once. They just clean the kit and use it more than once. Obviously, that increases the chances of contamination. We don’t use our kits more than once. Which is the reason why the standards are so high and I believe that is one of the reasons why we have not lost patients due to renal failure because the chances of contamination become next to NIL. You open, you use, and you throw away. So our standards are very high. We use the same standards as we do in Dubai.
Seychelles NATION: You provided the service throughout the pandemic?
Abdulla Ajmal: Yes, throughout. We didn’t miss a single day. Almost all the staff of ours tested positive and obviously it is because they are at the hospital. They are so exposed. They used to literally live in their PEE kits like they were in a nuclear plant. We have around sixty staff members and about twenty are local and forty are technical staff.
Seychelles NATION: AMSA is present in Dubai and in Seychelles?
Abdulla Ajmal: At the moment in Dubai, we are also present as a multispecialty as well. We also have aspirations to go to some other countries, one of them being Mauritius. We shall be entering these countries with dialysis, and then hopefully multispecialty as well. We want to now become a serious health care clinic. We are spreading the brand, but I am very clear about my vision about one thing. I want my services to be top-notch, but I don’t want to charge five-star rates. I want the average person to be able to get the best possible service – the best of care, but for a reasonable price.
My objective is not to make money for myself. It is to provide and grow the business. I want AMSA to be known as a top layer in the health care industry. We are intentionally looking at the island countries because there is a lot of opportunities while there is not as much very good care.
Seychelles NATION: Are you happy with your service in Seychelles right now?
Abdulla Ajmal: We are more than happy with our services because we are doing a great job. We start at five in the morning. We finish close to midnight. We are there six days a week. Staff are very satisfied. We provide them with all the provisions and we provide our patients with the food of their choice. We have Creole chefs making Creole food for them. So I think we have covered all the bases. Then again there will always be somebody or other who may not be entirely happy, but that is okay. That is life. You cannot please everyone. As long as our stakeholders – in our case the staff and the patients – are happy, we are happy!
Seychelles NATION: Do you also have tourists using your services?
Abdulla Ajmal: Yes, actually we do. Well for the last two years obviously Covid has killed everything, but we have had one tourist from Germany who got dialysis and was raving about how good the quality of dialysis is over here. Now you can imagine, Germany has very high standards of everything, especially health care, so it was a huge compliment for us. Similarly, there have been other westerners who have come and obviously, right now there are very little of them because people are scared and everybody knows Victoria is a government hospital so mostly in the west, the impression of government hospitals is not all that great. People are afraid in that sense.
Seychelles NATION: Any words for Seychellois and even tourists?
Abdulla Ajmal: I have two messages: One is for the people of Seychelles: I urge the people of Seychelles to fix their lifestyle. We do not want any more patients. I would rather meet people outside than inside our facilities because when you come to our facilities, in five days your sickness is not going to go away. There need to be a lot more awareness programmes and we are planning some outreach programmes that we are going to do, starting from schools. That is where the seeding needs to happen. Teenage obesity is at its peak. Young people are getting diabetes. Both of these are the key entrance to renal failure. Since we have started serving over here, the number of patients has doubled. Per capita, that’s a huge number and we do the screening assertions and I am afraid to say that almost every screening shows that almost fifty percent of people are on the way if they do not change their lifestyle. So moderation with food and alcohol, and exercise are the things that people need to start doing on a regular basis.
For tourists, I would say there is nothing to fear. Now there are barely any cases of Covid. I think tourists now should come back, and they are coming back but specifically, the ones that need renal care should come back. We have got great service. We have ensured that the sanitisation and the cleaning services are at par with international norms that exist anywhere else in the developed countries. So we can assure that people will not get something in our clinic. I think tourists need not be worried anymore and they can come for the best service that we provided in the past and continue to provide now.