[00:00:00] Dr. Joseph Ajaka: We’ve recently opened a new hospital only about two weeks ago. It’s been quite the journey to get there. It’s quite difficult to find premises that fits all the criteria needed. You need to have two exits, you need to have an ambulance bay, the building needs to comply in many ways with the local health departments. Once you found that facility, the next step is to get an architect who can draw it up to New South Wales health standards or the local health standard that are required in the different states. The building process can take about nine months and then you’re on your way once you receive the approval from the local health department they walk through.
[00:00:42] Interviewer: What has the standard been before that? What have people been able to get away with in terms of where they’ve been carrying out cosmetic operations because they fall under different guidelines to normal hospital approach, don’t they?
[00:00:52] Dr. Joseph Ajaka: Correct. In the middle of 2016, the New South Wales government introduced new legislation which said that any major cosmetic procedure needs to be performed in a licensed facility, which means it needs to be formed in a hospital facility. Licensing means that any complications need to be reported to the local health department. The facility needs to be credited, which means certain protocols and procedures need to be put in place and need to be followed. You get audited every one to three years. It’s a higher level of care for all patients across the country. We welcome the changes.
[00:01:30] Interviewer: Now, obviously you’re trying as a doctor, but along the way, you’ve had become a businessman and a property developer as well, haven’t you? Tell me about your journey, if you like, through where you started and where you are now.
[00:01:39] Dr. Joseph Ajaka: I remember signing a lease 11 years ago and being so nervous about signing a lease. We started off in Double Bay. Three or four years later, we bought a property in Double Bay and fitted out the whole clinic. We’ve since build a hospital recently. We’ve also opened clinics in Canberra about eight years ago, in the Gold Coast about four years ago, and in Adelaide about six years ago.
Along, I’ve had lots of guidance from my brother who’s an actuary, and he’s in private equity and property development and pubs, a lot of guidance. It’s been a great journey, and I’ve learnt a lot. I wish in medical school they teach you a bit of business alongside of all the medical stuff because it would be very useful.
[00:02:24] Interviewer: Has that been as much a part of growing the business like the property side as much as the cosmetic in staying ahead of the trends and what the latest piece of equipment is? It’s also very much on where you position your clinic and how you grow with legislation.
[00:02:36] Dr. Joseph Ajaka: Absolutely. If you look at, say, for example, Laser Clinics, they grew by positioning themselves in very good positions, and you can see Laser Clinics in every major corner now. Yes, they’re a massive company across the country.
[00:02:49] Interviewer: Should people be wary of cosmetic procedures that take place out of these really regulated facilities? Obviously, we know that they do happen.
[00:02:57] Dr. Joseph Ajaka: Yes, they still do happen. People find ways of getting around the legislation. There’s not many people policing them, which is the worrying thing. I think Victoria has come up with even tighter regulations only in July which makes it pretty much impossible to get around the regulations, and I do see that happening across the country in the next couple of years as well.
[00:03:19] Interviewer: Why did you get in to this as a business as opposed to just taking it as a standard medical track?
[00:03:24] Dr. Joseph Ajaka: It wasn’t a planned decision. It was something that I genuinely love doing. I had cosmetic procedures myself about 15 years ago, and I saw the impact that had of myself and then I started treating patients, and I saw that positive impact that it had on them as well. That’s why I started the business, so it’s all been a bonus and a learning experience on top of that. I went with my passion and that’s why we’ve ended up where we are.
[00:03:51] Interviewer: There’s people who are sometimes uncomfortable about seeing the idea of medicine as a business, but it is at any level, isn’t it?
[00:03:56] Dr. Joseph Ajaka: Absolutely. We have 50 employees across the country, and we have four officers. There’s always something to juggle regarding the business side of things. It’s not just all medical. I try and delegate a lot of that to other people so I can focus on the medical stuff, but you still have to have some degree of involvement and you do learn a lot along the way.
[00:04:21] Interviewer: That is the main way to advance through your career in any medical discipline, isn’t it? by sort of taking ownership of a business and growing that in itself.
[00:04:29] Dr. Joseph Ajaka: Absolutely. The other important thing is have a great team behind us. I mentioned my brother helped with the hospital, but we have a great head nurse, Tommy, and he’s been liaising with the New South Wales health department heads. It’s not an easy process, and there’s many hurdles to overcome, so you need a great team to build a hospital really and to staff it as well.
[00:04:50] Interviewer: Are there other sort of areas of medicine where this is happening where people are developing a whole hospital and it’s not like your local public hospital?
[00:04:58] Dr. Joseph Ajaka: Yes, I think in ophthalmology, that’s another big area, and gastroenterology, they’re the two big areas, so colonoscopies have specialised little hospitals now that just do scopes and same with eye surgeons, they have their own little hospitals. They’re the main three ones that they’re coming through.
[00:05:17] Interviewer: Do they tend to also be privately owned and have those same requirements for an ambulance bay and all sorts of things?
[00:05:21] Dr. Joseph Ajaka: Absolutely, yes. They’re usually owned by an ophthalmologist or gastroenterologist, the other local hospital that’s been built next to us in Double Bay is owned by a gastroenterologist and the other one in town, in the city, is owned by ophthalmologists so, yes. There’s lots of doctors who are now taking it upon themselves to build hospitals just for their own benefit. It’s a convenience thing as well. When a patient wants to book a procedure, you have to call the hospital to book it. If that time slot is not there, then it becomes very difficult for the patient and for you, while if you have your own facility, it’s much more convenient. You can do it whenever you want.
[00:05:58] Interviewer: Do you think there is reassurance for patients now whether it’s ophthalmology, or gastroenterology, or cosmetic procedures to know that the hospital that they’ll be at meets the same requirements as any hospital?
[00:06:08] Dr. Joseph Ajaka: Absolutely. Pretty raising the bar is great for everybody, may increase the running cost but overall it improves the experience and you have to do the care for the patient and that will in the long term help everybody.
[00:06:23] Interviewer: As for cosmetic medicine, do you see that is something that’s going to continue to grow. Obviously, there’s new procedures coming online and there’s a shortage of patients wanting to change things about themselves?
[00:06:33] Dr. Joseph Ajaka: I’m still amazed by the last couple of years in the growth in the industry. I started in the industry 15 years ago. I knew it was going to be a big industry, but I’m still blown away by how big it is and how mainstream it has become. The growth in the last four years in our business has been much greater than say in the first seven years of the business, and I honestly think it’s because of the rise of social media.
We’re all having wrist injuries because of Instagram, and we all want to look a certain way, and the technology is becoming more advanced and safer, so the industry here just keeps skyrocketing. There’s new technologies all the time that we have to keep abreast of, and that’s really exciting for me to be part of such a dynamic industry. I’m glad that I took this course in my career.
[00:07:21] [END OF AUDIO]