How to win friends and improve healthcare across a region
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For more than 16 years, Australian-born company Aspen Medical has been
quietly growing its export business to have a major footprint across the
world. With more than 2,500 staff across 18 countries, Aspen Medical
continues to go about its mission to meet the healthcare needs of
governments, communities and businesses wherever they arise.
This company’s story is about its people, their professional and
interpersonal capabilities. Indeed, in many parts of the world where they
operate, technology is neither ubiquitous nor reliable. Aspen Medical’s
core value is being able to design, develop and deliver the services needed
regardless of the supporting infrastructure.
“Our people are our business - the quality and
capability of our personnel are fundamental. Everything
else we provide simply enables them to do their
jobs. Few, if any, other companies or governments
have this asset.”
Glenn Keys AO, Co-founder and Executive Chairperson, Aspen
Heritage of delivery in the Pacific region
In late 2018 the government of Fiji announced that Australian company Aspen
Medical would be its key partner in delivering healthcare and reforming
Fiji’s healthcare system over the next two decades.
Under a private-public-partnership (PPP) arrangement with Fijian
government, Aspen Medical will develop, finance, upgrade, operate and
maintain Lautoka Hospital, Fiji’s second largest hospital, and the new Ba
Sub-divisional hospital. Together these hospitals service a quarter of
Perhaps more importantly, Aspen Medical was selected to ensure that these
hospitals become internationally verified within the terms of the contract.
This will make these Fijian hospitals the first in the region to be
operating at international standards.
For Aspen Medical, this PPP announcement with the Fijian government was
business-as-usual in the Pacific in many ways – one more contract, one more
acknowledgement of the way their services are having an impact in the
Pacific region. However, it was also cause for those leading the company to
reflect on their success over the past 16 years – and to examine the
reasons why this Australian company has come to be the preferred partner
for governments and big businesses across the world.
Since their first contracts on the Solomon Islands in the early 2000s,
Aspen Medical’s 16-year heritage of delivery in the Pacific region has also
brought a deep understanding of geo-political context and a close affinity
to populations across this region. This deep connection to the region has
established them at the forefront of new opportunities which they see
continuing to emerge in coming years.
By the end of 2019, Aspen Medical will have more than 1000 staff in the
Pacific region alone.
The key(s) to success
“Wherever we’re needed” has been the driving ethos for Aspen
Medical, who attribute their growth and success primarily to their
extensive roster of highly skilled people that underpin the company’s
ability to respond thoughtfully and effectively at short notice.
Their personnel roster spans clinical and allied health specialties as well
as project management, logistics, security for example, and is detailed
with languages spoken, vaccination status and anything and everything else
required to respond at short notice. If you need a team to respond to an
emergency Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo who speak
French, have all the relevant vaccinations and the interpersonal skills to
navigate the geo-political climate, Aspen Medical are your people.
At the heart of their competitive advantage is Aspen Medical’s ability to
design, develop and deliver tailored and specific healthcare solutions to
suit customer needs. This can mean providing a single paramedic on an oil
rig off the coast of Australia, responding to an Ebola outbreak in Liberia
(or the Congo), helping to clear surgery waiting lists in the UK, or
setting up, accrediting and running a hospital to international standards
in Fiji. Aspen Medical will bring together whatever is required to deliver
Medical and professional capabilities are not the sole focus for Aspen
Medical, however. Rather, their understanding and abilities to select a
team that will work together effectively and who will provide services in a
compassionate and culturally appropriate way is also critical. Responding
in crisis and often under high risk means finding the people who can work
together and with compassion. For Aspen Medical, this is a critical part of
their offer, and their success.
Knowing when to say no is also part of their success, according to
Co-founder and Executive Chairperson, Glenn Keys AO.
“Being in the right place at the right time has been important for us
and our success. This is sometimes responding to luck and sometimes by
design. But some contracts are just too high risk for our people
– you have to know when to walk away as well,”
Mr Keys said.
Partnering for export success
Austrade has supported Aspen Medical’s export aspirations since day one
when it first started delivering services in the Solomon Islands.
For Aspen Medical, different markets have different challenges – and
support from Austrade has taken various formats depending on the need.
Undoubtedly, on-the-ground support from Austrade’s market specialists in
country has enabled Aspen Medical’s growth. From providing introductions to
facilitating government engagement and advising on commercial setup and
operations – Austrade has truly operated as a partner for Aspen Medical.
More recently, with support from Austrade, Aspen Medical has expanded its
services in the Middle East. They were the first Australian enterprise to
form a joint venture with a United Arab Emirates government – and they now
deliver public ambulance services across the Emirates.
Africa is another growth area for Aspen Medical’s services. Aspen Medical
has been operating in Africa for many years, for example supporting the US
government and others to deliver Ebola hospitals. Support from the
Australian Government helped to grow awareness and recognition of Aspen
Medical’s capabilities – leading to more work in the region.
Aspen Medical’s success in delivering services has led to recognition far
and wide – including at home, where they won the 2018 Australian National
Exporter of the Year award. The company is now in an exciting phase of
growth and impact – they will continue to capitalise on their people and
their know-how to make a difference to healthcare both at home, and wherever they’re needed.
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