Sun, 04 June 2017
After caring for premature newborns, as their neonatologist, for over two decades of his career, Dr George Cheriyan has been the CEO and chief medical officer of the 120-year old American Mission Hospital (AMH), for the last eight years.
“As a medical student, I enjoyed working in the paediatric department immensely,” he says of his early years. “I felt compelled to work in this very challenging speciality, and further studied neonatology, caring for premature babies.”
After working with Saudi Aramco for 18 years, and heading its large neonatal intensive care unit, he wears a different hat from the one he donned before, going from active clinical practice to predominantly providing leadership to AMH. “I enjoy my work and the challenges in trying to change an institution with such history into a modern healthcare organisation,” he says. “I understand medicine and the needs of patients from the front-end, thanks to my years of experience. So now my role is to create an environment where doctors can provide safe, compassionate care to those who seek it from us.”
Speaking of how the hospital has evolved significantly since he has taken over the reins, he says: “AMH has modernised quite a bit, in terms of its facilities. But the harder task was to change the internal cultural attitude of the workforce here. We needed to deliver positive patient outcomes and experiences, which was a tall order. So my involvement was not only in rebuilding the structure, but also the organisational mindset of people, and enhancing their competence in successfully treating more patients.”
AMH has opened up wellness centres in Amwaj Islands and Saar, with a new one being readied in Riffa, all of which are ambulatory care facilities. “It’s only for major illnesses, surgeries or deliveries that patients need to be admitted to a hospital,” he explains. “Home-based and ambulatory services are the future of healthcare.” The hospital’s strategy of growth is in line with this, offering the AMH brand of care within the community.
The new imaging centre at Manama comprises the ultra-modern Philips 1.5T Ingenia MRI machine — the first on the island — a CT scanner, a bone densitometer and ultrasound amenities, making it a one-stop shop for all modalities of radiology.
Not many know that the Reformed Church in America owns the hospital and all surplus revenue is used for patient care in Bahrain. “Every single fil that has been made goes to expand the facilities of the hospital,” says Dr Cheriyan. “Also, 85 per cent of paying patients help subsidise costs for nearly 15 per cent of those who cannot afford medical services. So we are going beyond the term ‘corporate social responsibility’; we provide corporate social value through the work we do.”
It is due to this that AMH has never been in competition with other emerging hospitals. Profit is the bottom line for private facilities, whereas for not-for-profit hospitals, the surpluses are used for patient care and infrastructure development, with no distribution to stakeholders. “Furthermore, all our doctors are salaried and receive no incentives to add to their remuneration. Hence care is delivered as required only. This is why people have trusted our name for decades.”
Citing an example he adds: “Our CT facilities are comparatively less utilised, as they serve a purely need-based, diagnostic purpose only. The values of AMH are very different from other hospitals.”
The mantra Dr Cheriyan lives by, and which is also imbued in both his physician sons, is that a doctor cannot cure everyone, but can care compassionately for everyone. This simple motto has trickled down the rungs at AMH, making a positive difference to people who seek safe, state-of-the-art and affordable medical care. With his vision for the institution’s constant growth, it’ll probably be a part of our society for the next 120 years.