Dr Michael Miu: Painless
For pain specialist and anaesthetist Dr Michael Miu, the move into private practice has been a painless experience.Learn More
One of the greatest frustrations for people who live on the fringes of our major cities is that infrastructure growth never seems to keep up with population growth. It all takes time, and funding, and election cycles for these problems to be addressed. The private sector offers an alternative in its ability to build private hospitals. And as the team from the newly opened Camden Surgical Hospital discovered, that isn’t easy either.
The hospital sits in the Macarthur region in south-western Sydney, which has long been one of the fastest growing regions in New South Wales. “On top of that, there's been a very significant shortage of both public and private hospital capacity,” says director Bruce Willmann. “The government has invested pretty heavily in the public system, but there's only one other private hospital in the region. New South Wales Health's data has estimated that more than 50 per cent of patients are going out of the area for surgery and we expect another massive population growth in the next 10 years. Clearly there is an undeniable need.”
Nonetheless, it hasn’t been a smooth journey to build a new private hospital. “The idea to have a private hospital on this site was born back in 2012,” Mr Willmann says. “We started looking at it seriously around 2015 or 2016. We wanted to be sure we had sufficient investors with commitments to use the space before we went ahead with the project, because that underpinned the business. It took a number of years to recruit the medical investor group.
“We then had a series of issues including council requirements delays, then we ended up in the COVID period, which was a major blow. During the first round of COVID, everything stopped, then came the second round and then supplier problems and so forth. It's been a very challenging journey from that point of view.”
The hospital is built on land that was surplus to the Schwarz Family Practice, one of the largest and most established general practices in the region. Mr Willmann has been friends with the practice’s founder, Dr John Schwarz OAM, for many years and had formed a charity with him (the African AIDS Foundation). More recently, the Schwarz family practice was run by Dr Schwarz’s daughter, Dr Jane Gray, and her husband, A/Prof Matthew Gray OAM. All were aware of the growing need for hospital services, even as the family practice grew.
“There was a need for a high-volume short stay facility,” Mr Willmann explains. “We have some overnight patients, but it really is a high-volume capacity where patients are not terribly sick, so they just come in and out in a day or a few days. There was nothing else in the area that was providing that sort of service.”
They looked at possible sites but kept coming back to the land adjacent to the existing practice, overlooking the flood plain of the Nepean River. “It's actually in a fairly low-lying area,” he explains.
“It’s in a 100-year flood zone. It's a beautiful site in the sense that it just can't be built out. It's got this nice vista over the Kirkham fields, the floodplain area, which creates a beautiful view from the hospital – one that will never be obscured by other buildings.”
When it came to financing the build, however, the strength of the business case didn’t always translate to easily available commercial loans. “As an independently owned hospital, dealing with the big banks was relatively difficult, particularly through the COVID period,” says Mr Willmann. “BOQ Specialist was a breath of fresh air when we approached them. We couldn't be happier to be dealing with them. They're just a great bunch of people and they've been very positive about the project.”
BOQ Specialist’s Gareth Thomas says the development of Camden Surgical Hospital is an ideal example of the bank’s vision of building social capital through banking. “That involves helping businesses or operations that can benefit the community as a whole,” he says. “Clearly, in an area where they are severely lacking medical or health facilities, it’s going to be of great benefit to that community.”
“A/Prof Matthew Gray OAM, for example, is the Chairperson of the South Western Sydney Primary Health Network, so that gave us a great deal of confidence the group have a strong local presence,” Gareth explains. “Bruce Willmann, as CEO, brings vast experience in running a variety of other businesses, along with the 29 surgeons who have an equity stake in the business. We were confident in backing it, not only because of the location, and the type of facility that they were looking to start up, but also the people behind the project.”
The doors opened at the hospital at the start of the year. “We're not fully ramped up,” Mr Willmann says. “Part of it is effectively testing equipment, testing all the systems in the place, and getting surgeons in and familiar with the facility. Through that period there's been a lot of work with the licencing and accreditation of the hospital, and establishing relationships with health funds. We're really hoping to crank up soon and start increasing the volume.”
Thinking about starting or growing your practice? Click on the link to find out more about our tailored financial solutions for setting up a practice.
Ready to take the next step? Contact us to find out how we can tailor a practice finance solution for you, or call us on 1300 160 160.
The information contained in this webpage is general in nature and has been provided in good faith, without taking into account your personal circumstances. While all reasonable care has been taken to ensure that the information is accurate and opinions fair and reasonable, no warranties in this regard are provided.