Amazing lady

Probably one of the most difficult article that I had to write is about this lady.

And why is this so? This is because it is not easy to capture in a few words what she has done and continues to do for the tourism sector. I have known her briefly as a public relations practitioner but what she has accomplished before and after her PR career was a complete surprise to me. And may I say that I am amazed.

I am talking about Joyce Alumno who is a staunch advocate of global healthcare travel or what we know as medical tourism.

Joyce is president and country manager for the Philippines of Aster DM Healthcare group headquartered in the United Arab Emirates. It is one of the biggest healthcare providers in Asia with more than 290 establishments consisting of hospitals, medical centers, diagnostic centers, pharmacies, and medical universities in a number of countries.

She is concurrently executive director and is the founder of Healthcore which facilitates workshops and conferences on international healthcare management standards. There are a number of hospital accrediting and certifying bodies and standards worldwide. i.e. US-based Joint Commission International (JCI), India-based National Accreditation Board for Hospitals (NABH), TEMOS of Germany, and hospitals get to choose which one. But of course, international accreditation comes at a cost.

Before being a tourism advocate, she spent 11 years working for some of the biggest global investment banks (ABN Amro Bank as business analyst, HSBC Investment Bank Asia Ltd. Manila representative office as office manager, Baring Securities). Prior to that, she was marketing officer at El Nido Resort.

An entire page of this newspaper would not be enough to accommodate all that she has done so let me go through some of the things I picked up during a lunch meeting with her.

While having a promising career in investment banking at a time when mergers and acquisitions were happening all over, Joyce had to leave everything because her dad suffered a stroke. She went into PR work and events organizing and that was when she came across health tourism. She organized the first Philippine Medical Tourism Convention which was a huge success and since then, the Department of Health has tapped her to do a number of jobs, mostly pro bono.

She has since left PR and events organizing work and one of the things that keeps her busy is advocating for hospital accreditation.

There is what is known as the International Society for Quality in Health Care (ISQua) which she says accredits accreditors. Some of these accrediting bodies are JCI, NABH, TEMOS, etc.

Her advocacy began by helping a number of big hospitals here to get JCI accreditation. Subsequently, Joyce through HealthCORE became the exclusive representative office in the Philippines of NABH. The first to be accredited by NABH here is the Belo Medical Group for its four surgical centers namely those at the Medical Plaza in Makati, Tomas Morato, Alabang, and Greenhills in 2013.

But even as a representative of NABH, Joyce has asked the Department of Health to partner with NABH so that the Philippines can develop its own standards.

She is also the regional representative for TEMOS certification.

In addition to pushing for hospital accreditation and running Aster DM’s outpatient 24×7 ambulatory care clinics in the Philippines (there is the first one in Ortigas), Joyce is also busy running DM Foundation’s “Save the Little Hearts” program that helps indigent children with congenital heart disease. Foundation chair Dr. Azad Moopen, a physician-turned-entrepreneur from India who is also group CEO for Aster, has committed to give 50 children from the Philippines free heart surgery (travel and accommodation if required are taken cared of by NGOs) and at least 27 Filipino children have already operated, one of who had to be brought to the world-class Aster Medycity in India due to the long cue at the Philippine Heart Center.

About 750 children worldwide have already benefitted from the program.

Save the Little Hearts is only one of the many campaigns of Dr. Moopen’s Foundation.

Aster DM’s presence in the Philippines started with charity work and has now extended to doing business here through Aster DM Healthcare Philippines through its outpatient clinic, which also happens to be the firm’s first venture in Southeast Asia. Joyce said they are committed to bringing together strong medical teams managed with good systems, processes, protocols, and standards.

According to Joyce, the group is looking not only at more locations in the Philippines but also at medical tourism as an interesting opportunity here.