Banking on the good health of the primary care sector
Investing in primary care centres in a recession may seem a curious decision. But Centric Health’s chief executive, Maurice Cox, is convinced it is good for the sector – and for business
Familiar to many Dubliners as the site of the VHI Swiftcare clinic near Dundrum shopping centre, Rockfield Medical Campus is the headquarters of Centric Health.
Centric’s joint venture with VHI healthcare – the company jointly runs three Swiftcare clinics with the VHI – is only one strand of this multifaceted private healthcare business. The company is now about to embark on a new stage in its trajectory.
Earlier this week it announced the creation of 200 jobs, with the development of 10 primary care centres and an expansion of its medical diagnostics business. Fifty of the 200 jobs will come on stream by the end of the year, with the first primary care centre due to open in Newbridge in February. The new jobs will bring Centric’s total workforce to 550.
The expansion follows a € 20 million investment by European private equity group Metric Capital Partners. The investment will result in a complete financial restructuring of the company’s capital base, priming it for expansion, chief executive Maurice Cox explains.
“We’re ready for the next stage, but it’s been a tough couple of years,” he says.
Cox has built a career straddling the spheres of business and medicine. Having studied medicine at Trinity in the mid-1980s, he took a one-year postgraduate course at Cambridge University. On completion, he planned to begin a career in surgery, taking in-house jobs in hospitals around Dublin, specialising in orthopaedics.
“I loved medicine, loved the work,” he says. But, hearing of a job opening with McKinsey, he decided to throw his hat in the ring.
“I thought it would be great interview experience, but had fully intended to go back to medicine.”
A one-year post turned into five years, and Cox threw himself into the world of consulting and corporate finance, specialising in the healthcare sector.
In 2000, he met Ray Power, the owner of medical recruitment business Locumotion who was looking at expanding. Cox left McKinsey and went into partnership with Power alongside Lar Bradshaw, the future Anglo Irish Bank and Dublin Docklands Development Authority board member, for whom Cox had worked in McKinsey. The company began to grow, specialising initially in GP recruitment and primary medical care, including a partnership with VHI Swiftcare clinics.
In 2007, it acquired a stake in Global Diagnostics, a radiology business with operations in Australia.
Today the company has three main strands – medical recruitment, diagnostics and primary healthcare.
Its medical recruitment business, built around Power’s original Locumotion business, recruits doctors from around the world, mainly South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, to work in Ireland, and also organises placements for Irish doctors in Australia.
This kind of locum recruitment plays a significant role in GP provision in Ireland, according to Cox.
“These are the guys who keep the lights on at general practices around the country. At any time we could have 300 or 400 GPs on placement.”
Centric’s medical diagnostics business represents about half the company’s revenues, and has grown since the acquisition of a stake in Global Diagnostics in 2007. The service provides remote radiology services for public and private hospitals.
A significant number of new client wins, particularly with NHS hospitals in the UK, has boosted business, while Centric also provides services to hospitals in Ireland, such as Ennis.
But it is the company’s primary care division which will be the focus for growth over the coming years. The 10 new primary care centres will expand Centric’s current portfolio of 10 primary care centres. It is also acquiring the remaining 25 per cent stake in Global Diagnostics.