Exclusive interview: Chief Executive, San Pablo Colleges Medical Center, the Philippines

By Nurfilzah Rohaidi

Dr Gabriel Eala on the healthcare skills gap and his plans for 2019.

San Pablo Colleges Medical Center is a private 135-bed hospital in the city of San Pablo, Laguna, in the south of the Philippines. GovInsider speaks to Chief Executive Dr Gabriel Eala on his efforts at automation, and how he hopes to overcome a shortage of nurses.

What are some challenges that you are facing and how are you overcoming them?

One of the problems in the Philippines is that there is a lack of nurses. We cannot give quality healthcare if we lack a nursing service.

We had originally planned to complete the second phase of our hospital expansion - almost 250 beds. But we put these plans on hold first until we could get more nurses for our hospitals.

One of my priorities is to fully automate our hospitals. It used to be that we could still handle things manually, but as we grew over the years, this is becoming less feasible - that's why we are now trying to automate.

Right now, we are looking at automating hospital information systems and financial information systems for instance, so that there are checks and balances. This way, we will be able to monitor our activities and operations in the hospital more efficiently.

How will staff and patients both benefit from automation?

With automation, our patients will be able to book their consults quicker with our outpatient queuing system, and the patients can book their consults quicker. Even the services will be faster; the billing will be like in a hotel. I hope to be able to give them that experience, something that is totally different from the hospitals here, in and around our area.

For the doctors, the benefit of this would be that we can move and serve patients faster - even when dispensing their medications. It could be also an improved experience for the doctors. There will be new equipment that we're putting in for them. And because we are able to monitor all of this equipment, we can see if it will be usable and profitable.

How are you addressing the lack of nurses?

We have short term and long term management processes.

Our long-term plan looks like this. We originally built our hospital for the School of Nursing and right now, we are giving out scholarships to the underprivileged. Those with good grades can apply for the scholarship. They will be given a full scholarship for the next four years, including their board exams and reviews, and when they pass their exams, we employ them at the hospital.

Should they want to go abroad and practice their craft there, we can also help them. We're asking for tie-ups with some hospitals in Singapore, the Middle East and potentially in the US and Japan as well.

Our short-term plan is to work with nursing schools. We are asking for incoming nurses and giving them competitive salaries, and we're helping them in their reviews now. We're also asking our alumni who have gone abroad and are back in the Philippines to come back to us. Many of them have come back and are now working with us.

What is one thing that you would like to achieve this year?

We'd like to streamline our operations. Our efficiencies in the hospital at this point are mediocre.

And that's what I want to achieve in the next seven or eight months of this year. If our efficiency improves then we can look at growing our hospital to 250 beds in the future as originally planned.

Eventually, we also want to open our doors to the outpatient market and are exploring how to provide affordable health care packages. We are looking at all of these things that we can do so that we can help the community and patients.