Raffles Medical Group Sees China On The Mend From Covid As Its Expansion Continues

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China is gradually getting back to normal after disruptions earlier this year in connection with the Covid pandemic, the local leader of Singapore’s largest private healthcare provider said at the 3rd Forbes China Healthcare Summit on Saturday.

“Covid has presented us with a lot of challenges operationally,” said Dr. Vincent Chia, managing director of Raffles China Healthcare, a subsidiary of Raffles Medical Group in Singapore. “Things are starting to look slightly more relaxed, but in a very coordinated fashion,” he said.

Raffles Medical Group has been operating in China since 2010. It provides healthcare service in eight cities, including Hong Kong. That accounts for more than half of its current total of 14 across Asia.

This year, Raffles China Healthcare will open an In-Vitro Fertilization/Assisted Reproductive Therapy Center in Hainan – dubbed the “Hawaii of China.” Overall, Raffles plans to increase the number of cities it serves to 20 in the next three to five years, Chia said.

Speaking on a panel about “Fighting Cancer by International Institutional Collaboration,” Chia said a key to success in China was working well with local regulators and keeping aware that it is still a newcomer there, even though it was well-established at home.

“We face a slew of a very different regulatory challenges,” he said. “We must know how to engage ourselves and navigate in 14 cities and the different governments.”

“There are policies and there are regulatory regulations and controls that are sort of pan-China,” Chia said. “But in every district and in every city, it’s very different.”

“We really need to engage and, in China itself, it’s a matter of adapting and navigating – and it’s a matter of engaging. It’s a matter of understanding the culture,” he said. “It is about us blending in rather than being blending in with us. That really helps us a lot, but we are well learning.”

Investing in the country requires “a lot of homework first and then, after that, going in with an open mind at the same time to be able to engage” and address local concerns about safety and safety protocols, Chia noted. “The most important person” on his China team, he said, is the government relations officer.

Raffles Medical Group traces its roots to 1976. It is publicly traded at the Singapore Exchange, and employs more than 2,500.

Though well known at home, it is still something of a newcomer in China. “We’re bringing an international brand from Singapore into China, and we face the challenges as we try to get to know local communities” and vice-versa, Chia said. “China has a population of 1.4 billion. We have a very small group, and we just want to do whatever we can to help the local communities within China itself,” he said.

Besides in-person healthcare services, Raffles is working to offer online elements, including consultations and referrals. It also sees room to offer education, forums or, whether it’s online after Covid more fully dies down, offline. Medical education, nursing education, institutional exchanges about quality and safety standards also offer prospects, Chia said.

Raffle’s presence in Hainan – a free trade zone – may allow it room to operate that isn’t available elsewhere in China. “It is a free trade zone, and the regulations and the policies are quite different and slightly more relaxed, allowing us to experiment with new technologies and treatments” he said.

Other event speakers at the summit included: Steve Forbes, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief, Forbes; Dr. Lisa DeAngelis, Chief Medical Officer, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center; Hon. Kevin Rudd, President and CEO, Asia Society, 26th Prime Minister of Australia; Dr. Wu Yi-Long, President, Chinese Thoracic Oncology Group; Greg Simon, Inaugural Executive Director, White House Cancer Moonshot; Dr. Nancy Y. Lee, Chief and Vice Chair, Radiation Oncology, MSK; Dr. Bob T. Li, Physician Ambassador to China and Asia-Pacific, MSK; Dr. Louis J. DeGennaro, President and CEO, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society;

In addition, Dr. Tyler Jacks, President, Break Through Cancer; Prof. Andrew W. Lo, Professor of Finance, MIT; Kenneth Manotti, Senior Vice President and Chief Development Officer, MSK; Dr. Yinghua Wang, Senior Regulatory Health Project Manager, Oncology Center of Excellence, FDA; Rose Gao, Head of Novartis China Global Drug Development, Novartis; Dr. Eduard Gasal, President, Innovent USA; and Dr. Yibing Shan, Managing Director of the Antidote Foundation for the Cure of Cancer; and I also spoke.

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