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edition 9 (223)
September 2017
Retail & leisure

Doctor in the mall

Ewa Andrzejewska

Doctor in the mall
One of the two operating Medic Express clinics is situated in the Posnania shopping centre in Poznań

POLAND We all need to go to a doctor sometimes. And we also need to go to the shopping centre from time-to-time. So why not combine the two? The founders of Medic Express – a new chain of medical centres which is to open in malls in the largest Polish cities – have come to the same conclusion. Two centres have been opened so far: in Janki near Warsaw (in Centrum Janki at the end of May) and Posnania in Poznań (at the beginning of June). Over the next three years, the company is planning to open 25 clinics.

Sticking to the big city

How did the concept of opening clinics in shopping centres arise? “The idea stemmed from our interest in medical care, even though we are not doctors,” recalls Damian Biedulski, the CEO of Medic Express. “A few years ago we identified two areas of unsatisfied demand: the first was diagnostic imaging and the second was conveniently accessible and efficient basic medical services. I had been studying the United States market for a number of years, where the Minute Clinic had been expanding its chain. This was the first concept for convenient, affordable diagnostics in easy to access locations I became aware of. So we devised our own concept, refined it and then tested the water for such an idea in Poland. We carried out a survey in shopping centres: two in Warsaw, because it is one of the most affluent markets on the one hand and also the most saturated in terms of corporate prepaid medical care packages on the other, as well as one in Kraków and one in Gdańsk. The findings of the survey were very promising for us,” he explains. The expansion of the chain is to take place in the largest urban centres with the highest number of affluent people who rarely use the national health service and opt instead for paid services. “We are interested in large cities of at least app. 1 mln people. These will be Kraków, the Silesian conurbation, Wrocław, Poznań, the TriCity – where we are currently negotiating with the owners of centres in Wrzeszcz – as well as Gdynia, Łódź and, of course, Warsaw. We are presently working on five locations that will start operating in January/February 2018. We will be present in Serenada in Kraków, Avenida in Poznań as well as Wola Park, Galeria Bemowo and one more location in Warsaw, even though negotiations are still in progress for the last of these. Five more locations are to be opened in September 2018,” adds Damian Biedulski.

The clinic that is already up and running in Janki has an area of app. 90 sqm (the doctors’ surgeries are on the ground floor with the admin upstairs), while the centre in Poznań has an area of app. 130 sqm. “In Poznań we have been testing an additional concept: as well as the basic medical service – family treatment, such as a general practitioner and paediatrician – we are opening a large surgery which will be used as... and this is where we have a dilemma, should it be a gynaecologist, a laryngologist or an orthopaedist? We are still hesitating about the choice of type of specialist,” explains Grzegorz Salachna, a member of the board at Medic Express. He also emphasises the fact that it offers a convenient sample collection service for laboratory tests. “This is a service that has been enjoying great interest among clients since the very outset It fits in well with the character of shopping centres. It is widely accepted that there are still too few preventive tests being carried out, but the convenience of our location should encourage patients to take them,” emphasises Grzegorz Salachna. Another possible ace up its sleeve could be occupational medicine, perhaps exclusively for the employees of the mall’s tenants, but this need not be the case. As they are, such clinics are an attractive option seven days a week, including at weekends, when access to other facilities is very limited.

Services indemand

The growth of chains such as Medic Express follows the trend for introducing atypical concepts, often services, to shopping centres. We are more frequently visiting these ‘temples of retail’ to meet friends, use the gym, have fun with our kids on the trampolines or to pay our bills, rather than just to buy things. “As recently as 2015, the owners of shopping centres preferred the opening of another jewellery shop or retail chain to service tenants. This was when we temporarily got cold feet and postponed the idea. Later on, with the growing consumer interest in online shopping, the owners and managers of shopping centres started to take a keener look at introducing different services to shopping centres. The idea to have clinics was one that came up more and more often. The last few months have been notable for the fact that shopping centres have been much more willing to talk to us,” claims the CEO of Medic Express. As with all clinics, the chain has to fulfil certain legal requirements concerning the height of the rooms, the ventilation, the toilets for the staff as well as the patients, and the waste segregation. Thus the opening of a clinic requires a certain amount of involvement from the facility manager, because space vacated by regular retailers, for example, will not fulfil the requirements of Medic Express. “As a result, you cannot rent units that are too small – the minimum area is 60–70 sqm, as then we would only have one surgery and this is not very cost-efficient, since rent also has to be paid for public areas. The optimal centre consists of three surgeries with an area of app. 100–110 sqm,” insists Grzegorz Salachna. How much does it cost to open one? “A few hundred thousand złoty, which is spent on the construction work and equipment,” he adds.

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