The new major entrant in Australian primary care predicts steady growth in demand for GPs and increasing corporatisation of providers.
Singaporean-owned Fullerton Health snapped up Healthscope’s struggling primary care division last month for $55 million, positioning the fast-expanding group as Australia’s third-largest operator of medical centres.
The purchase of Healthscope’s 43 centres, employing some 350 doctors, brings Fullerton’s stable in Australia to 54 GP clinics.
Steven Harvey, managing director of Fullerton Australia, told The Medical Republic the ageing of the population underpinned the growth outlook for primary care, especially with regard to chronic disease.
“At the same time, there will be increasing need to bring the provision of care out of the hospital context and into the community through primary care providers, in order to lighten the burden on hospital facilities,” he said.
“All these factors contribute to a resilient and steady growth outlook for GPs in Australia. We also expect the ongoing consolidation and corporatisation of the Australian primary-care industry to take place over the medium term.”
Announcing the deal, Dr Michael Tan, CEO of Fullerton Health, signalled his ambitions to grow the Australian primary-care business in parallel with the group’s expansion in other parts of Asia.
“This is an important acquisition for us, which reinforces our stated strategy of developing a strong presence in markets across the region, and specifically to broaden our network in Australia,” he said.
“Through this acquisition we will become the third-largest primary health care business in the country, and will be well positioned to support even more doctors and clinics.”
A completion date of September 30 is set for the primary care portfolio offloaded by Healthscope. The business comprises 48 facilities, including the 43 medical centres, four specialist skin clinics and a specialist breast cancer diagnostic clinic.
Healthscope’s CEO Gordon Ballantyne said the change of management would open up fresh opportunities for doctors and staff at the affected clinics.
Most are multidisciplinary practices offering family health, occupational health, allied health and travel medicine services.
“Fullerton’s management philosophy, close cultural fit and desire to invest in growth will enable the business to develop and expand in the coming years, providing significant opportunities for the staff and doctors in these practices,” he said.
Following the Healthscope acquisition, Fullerton Health Australia operates 54 GP clinics, 35 occupational health clinics, nine allied health centres, four skin clinics and the Sydney Breast Clinic.
In July, Fullerton purchased five GP clinics and a specialist sports medicine clinic in Queensland from the Aus-Care group.
Fullerton Health, co-founded by Dr Tan and another medical doctor in 2011, is undertaking a fast expansion in the Asian region, with a focus on China.
Its plan to float on the Singapore stock market late last year was foiled by delays, reportedly caused by queries over its practice of charging doctors a percentage of patient fees, and deteriorating market conditions.
The existing local arm, Fullerton Health Australia, is a major player in occupational health after taking a majority stake in Jobfit Health Group in 2013.
Healthscope’s medical centre activities had been under strategic review, with shrinking profits and a dwindling share of the company’s earnings.
Mr Ballantyne said the divestment would allow Healthscope to concentrate on its core pathology and hospital businesses.