One thing’s for sure, while we may be able to economise in other areas of our lives, our health (and that of our loved ones) is always a priority – which probably explains the extraordinary number of healthcare providers on our tiny island.
One of the most familiar is Singapore’s second-largest private general hospital, Raffles Hospital on North Bridge Road, run by the Raffles Medical Group (RMG (SGX: R01).
But whilst RMG also runs 78 top-notch multi-disciplinary clinics across the country as well as four in Hong Kong and Shanghai, China, its co-founder’s beginnings were far humbler.
Loo Choon Yong grew up with six siblings in 1950’s Singapore. His father worked several jobs and his mother ran a food stall at the canteen of his primary school: Presbyterian Boys’ School. Mornings for Loo Choon Yong consisted of travelling by bus to buy supplies for his mother’s stall and returning by trishaw ready to start school.
Loo worked hard and did well at primary school. He was accepted into Raffles Institution, one of Singapore’s top secondary schools where he continued to excel.
Despite being more interested in Maths and Physics, Loo was persuaded by his father to study medicine, in a bid to help financially support his siblings through university.
However, his heart wasn’t fully in it – and whilst at medical school he discovered a great interest in student politics. He was elected a political student leader, and enjoyed the role’s requirements of having to travel to conferences in Vienna every six months.
However, this time away caused him to fall two months behind his peers for his housemanship (medical internship).
Becoming a doctor…
Loo’s friends arranged for him to train in an intensive care unit at the Singapore General Hospital. On his first night, as he performed urgent medical procedures and watched people die he recalled thinking “You’d better know what you’re doing as the guy lying there needs you”.
From then on something in him changed – and he found a motivation to study medicine that he never had before.
Drs Teng and Partners
Upon graduation, Loo made the decision to go into private practice.
In 1976, together with his old school friend Dr Alfred Loh, Loo took over the Teng’s Clinics in Singapore’s Central Business District (CBD) working under the name Drs Teng and Partners. Their aim was to provide medical services to corporate clients – and the two clinics quickly took off.
Raffles Medical Group
By 1980, they had moved to bigger premises and changed the name to the Raffles Medical Group (RMG). By 1989, three more clinics had been opened including the group’s flagship practice in the Straits Trading Building in Raffles Place.
In 1990, RMG was appointed the exclusive medical provider for Singapore’s Changi Airport Terminals 1 and 2 – providing 24-hour medical care for Changi’s 24 million annual transiting passengers as well as airport staff.
In 1992, with more Singaporeans asking for health screenings, RMG set up Raffles Diagnostics and made its first venture overseas opening a clinic in Hong Kong in 1995. The group also set up its first neighbourhood clinic.
By 1997, RMG was serving over half a million patients through leased premises. It was time to build a hospital. The group, together with Pidemco Land (a government-linked enterprise) bought the Blanco Court building in Bugis and started work to convert it into the second largest hospital in Singapore.
Asian Financial Crisis
However in 1998, the Asian Financial Crisis hit Singapore. Pidemco Land questioned Loo and Koh over whether the project should go ahead. After much agonising over the numbers they decided to go for it – and Raffles Hospital was built.
But did you know…
- Raffles Medical Centre was named after its founders’ secondary school – Raffles Institution
- Executive Chairman Loo Choon Yong currently occupies position #23 of Forbes’ Singapore’s 40 Richest List 2014 with a net worth of $515m.
- During his time spent in Vienna as a political student leader, Loo Choon Yong met numerous famous politicians including Golda Meir, Abba Eban, Harold Wilson, Willy Brandt, Helmut Schmidt and Olof Palme.
- In 2003, Raffles Hospital made global news when consultant neurosurgeon Keith Goh attempted ground-breaking surgery – to separate conjoined adults, Iranian twins Ladan and Laleh Bijani. Sadly, the twins did not survive.
- Raffles Hospital is on North Bridge Road – one of Singapore’s earliest and longest streets. Together with High Street and Hill Street, North Bridge Road was carved out of jungle with the help of convict labourers and all three appear on Lt. Phillip Jackson’s 1823 Plan of the Town of Singapore.
Today, Raffles Medical Group is the largest private group practice in Singapore, owning and operating a network of family medicine clinics, as well as offering insurance services and a consumer healthcare division.
The group also manages four healthcare services throughout Hong Kong and Shanghai, China, as well the clinics in Changi Airport Singapore and Chep Lap Kok, Hong Kong.
A hospital is a hotel with medical services…
RMG’s flagship, Raffles Hospital, still prides itself on providing excellent healthcare with boutique hotel standards of service, with immaculate liveried porters and care that sets it apart from the competition. RMG’s attention to providing five-star service could help explain its five-star Net Income Margin.
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The information provided is for general information purposes only and is not intended to be personalised investment or financial advice. Motley Fool Singapore contributor Alison Hunt doesn’t own shares in any companies mentioned.