Pulse Health eyes bigger workforce for beefed up Boulcott Hospital

New owners to end Boulcott Hospital's sinking lid policy.

Australian private hospital operator Pulse Health plans to beef up staff numbers at Lower Hutt's Boulcott Hospital when it takes control of the site.

It will end a sinking lid policy that's helped its current owners cut costs in recent years.

The Sydney-based based company yesterday told investors it would keep the majority of the hospital's existing workforce in executing the acquisition, but managing director Phillipa Blakey says that doesn't mean it plans to cut staff, rather it's a recognition that she can't guarantee all the current employees will still be there once Pulse gets regulatory sign-off to buy the site.

Those approvals from the Ministry Health, the Commerce Commission and Overseas Investment Office could take up to six months, she said.

"We're not intending that there will be any job cuts. I can't guarantee that all the staff will still want to be there - people move, they do different things," Ms Blakey told BusinessDesk. "What we want to do is grow it, and invest in it, and create more jobs."

Boulcott Hospital was put on the market by Evolution Healthcare as a condition for the Australian private healthcare investor getting regulatory approval to buy out its partners in local private hospital operator Acurity Healthcare.

New Zealand's Commerce Commission was satisfied that Evolution wouldn't be able to exert too much control over the Wellington market if it divested Boulcott when taking over the operator of the city's Bowen and Wakefield hospitals.

Pulse will pay $16 million upfront for Boulcott Hospital, with a further $4 million contingent on achieving earnings targets. The hospital is forecast to generate annual earnings of $A2.6 million, including up to $A700,000 of savings from the previous owners' cost cutting measures.

Ms Blakey said Pulse will piggyback on those savings that have come from not replacing staff when they leave, and trimming costs in hotel service contracts, stationery purchasing and marketing.

Pulse will look to extract more savings from its shared services platform based in Sydney, though Ms Blakey said it wasn't feasible to run New Zealand's finance or payroll functions from Australia.

The Boulcott Hospital acquisition is the company's first foray into New Zealand, and Pulse expects growing demand will lead to at least one new theatre over the next five years.

Pulse will also scope out the hospital's endoscopy unit, both of which Ms Blakey expects will lead to more jobs.

Among the hospital's attractions was "its national reputation for very high services and patient care" and that "it continues to invest in the best technology, the best equipment, and in the facility itself," she said.

Pulse sees the increasing uptake of private health insurance, an aging demographic, better chronic disease management, and improved technology as supporting the New Zealand market, and is actively looking at other private hospitals, day surgeries, and endoscopy centres to expand.

"We're really keen to add to our portfolio in New Zealand quite quickly, we'll be looking to build capability in the New Zealand market," Ms Blakey said. "There's a range of opportunities that we are aware of across the country."

(BusinessDesk)