… are here to stay.
There are a hundred state-approved private medical facilities in The Netherlands at the moment. This number will grow if the government forces hospitals to deliver services at market prices. Marco de Vries spoke with three current leaders in this field: Michiel Luger of VisionClinics, Corné Otto of the Mauritsklinieken and Bert Malenstein of the Bergman Klinieken. They see a bright future for private clinics.
Public health in The Netherlands is about to change. Instead of visiting a regular hospital for medical help, more and more people are finding their way to specialized private clinics. This is relatively new.
In the old days, you had the odd dental clinic with a wealthy following, but that was about it. The Dutch are used to claiming their medical expenses from their insurance, and private treatment couldn’t be claimed.
But that situation has been changing over the last 10 years. Not because Dutch health care got a bad reputation, but because some specialists thought medical care could be delivered at a much more specialized level.
Ophthalmologist Michiel Luger is founder and medical director of VisionClinics, a private eye laser clinic, repeatedly named the best in its field by the Dutch Consumer Board. Luger is convinced that, to become an expert in this field, you have to do an operation as many times as possible with the best material available.
‘This is something that is impossible in a regular hospital with a nine-to-five mentality and more limitations than opportunities,’ he says. That’s why he left mainstream medical care years ago and started VisionClinics. In the last ten years, they’ve done over 70,000 operations and he himself over 1,500.
Victim of its own success
Corné Otto, managing director of the Mauritsklinieken in The Hague, agrees. His isn’t a private clinic but a so-called ZBC, or independent treatment centre, where the cost of treatment is refunded by most medical insurance firms. Costs of treatment here are strictly regulated by the government.
Otto, a non-practicing doctor, underlines that there is more to a private clinic or ZBC. The special attention and care given to a patient in a pleasant environment is something that can never be matched by a hospital, which is often strapped for cash and understaffed. The waiting list for treatment is much shorter.
But a clinic can become the victim of its own success, says Bert Malenstein, CEO of the Bergman Klinieken, which started with plastic surgery and later expanded into orthopedics and other specialties. He stresses that if the best specialists in a field are working at your clinic, the waiting list for them will gradually lengthen. Malenstein tries to solve that problem by employing high-potential specialists who keep waiting time down to three weeks. But if you want the most senior doctor, says Malenstein, ‘be prepared to wait for your turn,’
Forty percent of existing hospitals might disappear
At present, the number of private clinics in The Netherlands is limited to about a hundred state-approved ones. But that could change if the government implements its policy to force hospitals to deliver services at market-competitive prices. According to insiders, hospitals are not ready for this. If the market-oriented approach really hits them, Malenstein assumes that close to forty percent of existing hospitals might disappear or start functioning in a different way.
Luger, Otto and Malenstein all expect that the number of private clinics and ZBCs will grow. But whether the newcomers can operate at a high level is a question that remains to be answered by time.
One thing is certain. A clinic that doesn’t have enough clients and turnover cannot keep up with the established ones like VisionClinics, which has the best and most modern medical equipment. Michiel Luger hopes that newcomers will share his ambition to deliver the best possible care. Whatever happens, Luger, Otto and Malenstein are quite sure about one thing. Private clinics and ZBC’s are here to stay.