Interview with BR: Mihail Marcu, CEO of MedLife | Romanian healthcare leader MedLife seeks to expand its international presence

Romania’s healthcare system has been tested by the COVID-19 pandemic, and it has succeeded. MedLife, the nation’s largest private health service provider, has been successful in both treating non-COVID patients and building new labs from the ground up. To find out more, Business Review spoke with its CEO, Mihail Marcu.

By Aurel Constantin

How has MedLife responded to the coronavirus pandemic?

Michael Marcu: We have carried out several projects to support Romanian authorities and companies. For example, we developed a network of COVID-19 labs in record time and started antibody testing. We have designed special circuits and protocols for patients and set up online consultation and telemedicine systems. MedLife was the first to carry out regular testing of its doctors, nurses and patients and also had screening units dedicated to vulnerable categories of patients – including a clinic exclusively dedicated to monitoring pregnant women during confinement.

Our network of RT-PCR testing laboratories is present in all major cities, and we have organized a national free testing program through these laboratories. We donated medical equipment to local authorities and COVID hospitals, such as those in Arad and Sibiu. We have also made available an entire hospital to be used as a COVID support unit.

How does MedLife fit into the system?

The hit of the virus was shocking, as it was for everyone. It sows panic in the population, but also in the medical community; there was no protocol to treat this illness that came out of nowhere. MedLife has a center of ambulatory care units representing approximately 27% of our business. This hub receives around 20,000 patients a day, welcomed by around 5,000 of our staff. Securing this process during a pandemic is not easy.

We were the first in Romania to set up filters in our clinics as well as the first to send our doctors home after a trip abroad. We needed to find ways to separate patients with different illnesses, so we redirected their path to our clinics. Then we moved on to testing our entire staff; approximately 2,000 to 3,000 are tested each week. We currently have 7 labs that can perform RT-PCR testing, allowing us to immediately test staff and patients whenever needed.

We were also the first in Romania to carry out certain types of research. During the pandemic, we conducted a study on the number of sick people and those who had antibodies against the coronavirus. This was the first antibody study in the entire Balkan region. It was conducted on 1,000 patients and found that less than 2% – possibly as little as 0.5% – of people in our country had antibodies. And this is an important and interesting fact. The results were later confirmed by several studies conducted by other institutions.

The second study was conducted in Suceava, where the infection rate was huge. The city was closed and no one wanted to go there, but we went there to do our research. At that time, we discovered that 20% of the population of Suceava had antibodies. The research shows how an area can evolve and provides very important information for healthcare professionals. The study was conducted by Romanian specialists only, without any help from abroad.

We participated in many other studies, including the first sequencing of the coronavirus genome, carried out in partnership with Matei Bals and Colentina hospitals in Bucharest to see where the new variants came from and how they could be recognized based on their signatures. genetics. This meant we could tell if the virus came from the UK or Brazil, for example.

This type of research is very expensive and we do it without any external financial support from private or public entities, but we share all our results with the Ministry of Health.

MedLife in numbers and company milestones

How much have you invested in research over the past year? How did the company’s results evolve in 2020?

The value of the investment is approximately 500,000 euros. I don’t have the exact figure because we haven’t calculated things like staff transport and test samples yet, but the direct cost of all the tests we’ve done during the pandemic is over 300,000 euros , and adding our other investments to this figure should result in around half a million euros.

The company’s revenues increased slightly last year, but I am unable to give exact figures at this time as we have to go through the Stock Exchange first – I can however say that we are hoping to reach 250 million euros, which include new acquisitions.

What are your plans for the future?

We have many projects. We will continue to do research to help the public sector monitor data on the pandemic and the evolution of the virus.

We’re also launching a huge new program to exploit the fact that MedLife can access the medical history of over half a million subscribers – I think there are 690,000 right now. This means that we have information as far back as 2010 on some of our patients, and we can analyze this data and identify those who are at risk of developing heart problems or other illnesses in the context of the pandemic. We will do this using data from over 5.5 million people who have come for various tests over the years. As for the 690,000 subscribers through their companies, we will be able to advise companies which of their employees should not be placed on the front line of a pandemic, as they may be at greater risk.

MedLife is the national healthcare market leader and we believe now is the time to bring Romanian capital across the border. It would be great for all Romanians to see a business grow in this way.

How do you see the pandemic evolving?

We need to get rid of the fear and get more people vaccinated so we can get back to the life we ​​had before. This is the most important thing right now.

Helen D. Jessen