Medland Hospital offers a unique perspective as one of Zambia’s finest comprehensive healthcare providers. In an interview with Francis Juma, our Founder & CEO, HealthCare Middle East & Africa Magazine, Dr. Mohamed El Sahili, CEO of Medland elaborate more on the healthcare provider as it celebrates its fifth anniversary of impactful operation.

Dr mohammed el sahili

Medical Doctor. Entrepreneur/Businessman. CEO. Chief Vision Officer. International Speaker. Award winner. Board member. These are some of the many ways that Dr. Mohamed El Sahili (or Moe Sahili, by his close friends) is referred to, in addition to being a strategic visionary and innovative thinker.

Extremely passionate about any initiative he takes on, Dr. El Sahili has spent the past five years involved in the project that is bound to make the most impact on his entrepreneurial journey: as the CEO and Chief Visionary Officer (CVO) of Medland Hospital, Zambia’s leading private-sector healthcare operator.

Boasting as the first private facility to introduce a full-time operational cardiovascular surgery department in Zambia, Medland Hospital has been a game changer in the country’s healthcare space, providing highly specialized medical services for Zambians and citizens within the region.

Located in the county’s capital city, Lusaka, Medland Hospital is dedicated to providing access to comprehensive and individualized patient care in a friendly, safe, and comfortable environment of international standards based on collaboration, compassion and innovation principles.

Opened in June 2019, the US$35 million facility is a 72-bed space facility that offers services such as Cardiac Surgeries and Interventional Cardiology, Surgical Oncology, Orthopedics & Trauma, Urology, Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT), General Surgery including Minimally invasive procedures, Nephrology, Obstetrics & Gynecology, Ophthalmology, Pathology, Radiology, Pediatrics & Neonatology, General Medicine, IVF & Fertility, and Anti-Ageing Medicine.

Zambia and other neighboring countries, except South Africa, do not have hospital centers of excellence to treat cases requiring specialized treatment and lack specialist diagnostic and treatment centers to treat cardio-vascular, liver, renal, and cancer diseases.

Medland Hospital came to fill the gap. It provides medical tourism and receives patients from Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Botswana, Angola, and as far north as Kenya.

“What we offer is what I call the Medland experience,” says Dr. El Sahili, adding, “We do provide all kinds of services available worldwide. We have regular medical visits and advanced services like cardio-vascular surgeries, surgical oncology, and advanced orthopedic surgery.”

The hospital was created based on a comprehensive specialized facility that provides discreet and individual quality care for day and overnight stays.

By providing a sustainable infrastructure that delivers international standards across all healthcare system levels, Medland Hospital ensures that the patient experience can match any facility outside the continent.

The facility has created almost 300 full-time jobs, 80 percent locals, and 20 percent expatriate staff.

Team of doctors<br />
performing<br />
surgical  ligation<br />
of  congenital<br />
coronary  fistula

Dr. Mohamed El Sahili was born in Saida, Lebanon. After completing his high school education, he moved to Toulouse, France, for two years before returning to Beirut to finalize his studies in medicine at the Lebanese University.

His medical journey didn’t stop there; he obtained a further specialty in Anesthesia and Reanimation at Beirut Arab University, after which he relocated to Geneva to kickstart his career and delve into the studies of Anti-Aging Medicine.

From a young age, he wanted to be a doctor. “I envisioned making a difference in people’s lives by providing access to affordable, timely, and quality health care. Today, Medland Hospital has made this vision a reality,” he says.

After graduating, he joined the family business in Zambia and managed them, including Fairy Bottling Zambia.

The firm’s primary products were natural mineral waters and carbonated drinks. After implementing a company-wide business strategy, the firm rose to the ranks of the nation’s top five.

Dr. El Sahili managed the merger and acquisition negotiations that led to The Coca-Cola Company’s complete acquisition of the company.

Concurrently, he worked on acquiring bottling businesses in Zambia and 13 other countries. His impactful work was recognized in 2018 when he was awarded the Africa Food Industry Champion at the Africa Food Awards in Nairobi, Kenya.

In his commitment to public service, Dr El Sahili chaired the Lusaka Water Security Initiative for three years up to 2018. This initiative, which combined forces across the public and private sectors and international organizations, sought to enable people’s right to access clean and clear water.

The meticulous planning, designing, and implementation of the Medland Hospital setup marked a significant milestone in his entrepreneurial journey.

Besides being CEO and CVO of Medland Hospital, Dr. El Sahili also serves on the boards of critical economic international organizations, such as the African Business Roundtable, the Baobab College, the Flying Doctors, and the Corporate Council on Africam.

Dimitra Papalexiou, a Greek-American, is the Hospital Administrator at Medland Hospital and a member of the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE).

Dr Collin West is the Medical Director. He is also the secretary general of Zambia Orthopedic and Trauma Association of Zambia.

Patience Shavuna, a Zambian, is the Human Resource Manager, and Marie Claire Makuza, an American, is the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) Coordinator. Marie has been named African Global Health Ambassador in Zambia and is the hospital’s national and international spokesman.

COVID-19 accelerated business

COVID-19 was an unseen pandemic that caused a global crisis, and it happened barely eight months after Medland Hospital launched.

As the outbreak spread across the World and into Zambia, the hospital had to act fast, in some cases changing some of its policies and procedures as the pandemic hit.

In one ground-breaking move, the hospital set up a COVID-19 response committee few weeks before the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak a pandemic.

“For a newly established hospital, the policies were still fresh. An example is the emergency response plan drafted before opening the facility. We never knew that there would be a pandemic. Still, we had it in place because it’s part of our state-of-the-art facility to be perfect on all levels,” states Dr. El Sahili, adding that they immediately moved into putting together an anticipated list of challenges, looking closely at the areas of supply chain, human resources and other details which would affect the overall day-to-day running of the hospital.

With the guidance of public authorities, Medland became one of the first accredited hospitals in Zambia to conduct PCR screening tests through its existing PCR laboratory.

Dr. El Sahili expressed his positivity to the pandemic by saying it accelerated the trust between the hospital and its patients. With the international travel bans, Medland Hospital became a hospital of choice for patients seeking treatments abroad, fulfilling one of their chief objectives.

The facility, therefore, benefitted from the increased contact with locals, cultivating a solid bond built on trust and accountability with patients and the community.

“Before COVID, no one could believe that cardiac surgery could be done in Zambia, but because of the lockdown, they had to try our services, and when they had access to that care of excellence, they changed their minds, and it became more of a real relationship that is being built between a patient and the facility,” he says.

Dr. El Sahili led the fight against the pandemic, and he was honored with the Waterfalls Global Award and the UAE Community Service Medal for his role in enacting a novel emergency plan that contributed to expanding the nation’s capacity for screening, immunization and treatment.

Medland Hospital Pharmacist

Strengthening community bond

Dr. El Sahili launched a successful international initiative called Q-Medland during the Covid-19 pandemic. Q-HUB (an acronym for Quality Healthcare Unit and Beyond, pronounced as “Cube”) was created after he realized that the units were more than just places to receive medical care; they were also thriving community centers that provided locals with different forms of empowerment.

In May 2021, the facility strengthened the communal bond by sending its Q-Medland Units to decentralize access to COVID-19-related services. Dr. El Sahili says that these units serve communities, specifically those in rural areas, by addressing health issues and raising awareness among the general population.

Q-Medland mobile clinics were located in Livingstone, Lilayi, and Chongwe, among other areas. They provided COVID-19 screening, testing, vaccination services, and primary health care services such as general GP consultations, health checks and screenings, minor surgical treatments, medication administration, nebulization and oxygen therapy, and routine lab testing.

“It’s the perception that you create within the general population, and the trust people have in you and the care they would receive,” says Dr. El Sahili.

Medland Hospital has also developed relationships with oncology research institutions to provide updated chemotherapy protocols. It is also a member of the International Hospital Federation and one of the first 100 signatories to Ethical Principles in Healthcare (EPIHC) worldwide.

Dr. El Sahili sits on the Africa Healthcare Federation and the Corporate Council on Africa boards, lending further credibility to Medland’s prestige.

These partnerships have been possible through what Dr. El Sahili describes as a direct dialogue between the private and public sectors.

The channels of communication between the private sector and the government are open. “Sometimes they do face challenges like resistance and over-excitement, but the channels of communication are open,” he retaliates.

Putting Zambia on the map

Dr. El Sahili insists that Zambia must be promoted as a regional medical hub, and he calls for investors, specifically health investors, to consider investing in the country.

Zambian patients are increasingly seeking high-quality healthcare services, which has increased demand for private hospitals. The middle class is willing to pay for better healthcare services and is driving the growth of private hospitals in the country.

Providing further insights into the environment in the country and the role the medical sector can play in enhancing Zambia’s role as a regional medical hub, and the general lack of awareness about the country’s many advantages, considering it borders seven countries such as Angola, DRC, Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania, Botswana and Zimbabwe, he reveals that the messaging has not been direct and forthright from all involved in the sector.

“For a long time, Zambia has marketed itself by advocating for investments in agriculture, mining, and other areas, while the healthcare sector has not been on government and private sector investors’ map. However, when you look at Medland Hospital today, we are receiving patients from Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Botswana, Angola, and even Kenya, believe it or not. It is the perception you create within the general population, the trust people have in you, and the care they receive,” Dr. El Sahili remarked.

He added that the Medland Hospital project has created a call to other investors looking at Zambia as a regional medical hub.

“We are, therefore, playing an important role in enabling other stakeholders to come to Zambia. Medland is playing an important role in that direction,” he said adding that in the coming future, Medland will be partnering more or venturing jointly with international entities to implement a bigger vision that addresses the fact that Zambia can become a medical regional hub.

However, Dr El Sahili highlights that the goal to make Zambia a regional hub can only happen if the players in the private sector move from a competition mindset to a leadership and coalition mindset.

“If we don’t do that, we won’t be able to push for a smoother adoption of regulation updates or upgrades and implementation. The public sector can only change, amend or adopt new regulations when sitting with one private sector, not with a distracted private sector or a dismantled one, where everyone is thinking about their own needs, their benefits,” he pointed out.

Doctors Performing first  successful varicocele embolization at Medland Hospital

Committed to a sustainable business

Medland Hospital, as a member of Healthcare Without Harm’s Healthcare Climate Challenge, was the first private African facility to join the United Nations-backed race to net zero campaign, committing to achieving net zero emissions by 2050.

The facility’s Vision 853 is based on a Triple-W structure: Women and Youth Empowerment, Wellness and Health, and Water and Waste Management.

In line with this, the facility recently appointed a Chief Sustainability officer. “The CSO has to make sure that sustainability is achieved in-house in terms of our way of dealing with our procurement, our services, our hospitality, and our side of doing business,” Dr. El Sahili explained.

He highlights that the facility is paying attention to primary care. Recently, they have invested in developing its home care departments. “Medland is working on enhancing its telemedicine services to respond to the needs of people living in rural areas or underprivileged communities who may not be able to travel to you every time they increase in a health care challenge,” he says.

Life beyond the fifth anniversary

As Medland Hospital celebrates the huge progress and impact it has had on the healthcare industry in Zambia over the last five years, the organization’s team is gearing up for a brighter future and even more impact on its patients, the communities it serves, and the broader economy of the country.

“There will be a huge change in the coming years at Medland Hospital. First, we are now very committed to our sustainability agenda, and the appointment of our Chief Sustainability Officer attests to that,” Dr. El Sahili says.

Secondly, the team is considering adopting various new technologies into its operations, including artificial intelligence (AI). It recently installed an advanced 4D ultrasound scanning machine in the diagnostic and imaging department. He believes that new technologies are set to transform how healthcare is delivered and even how diseases will be diagnosed and treated.

“I may be wrong, but I believe that within the coming decade, which is near for us as a generation, we will not even see the medical faculties or schools as they exist today. I think it’s very important for us to know that change is coming, and we must be ready for it,” he added.

The third priority area is to help develop human resources within its facility and the broader healthcare sector in the country.

The hospital recently launched its education program, which will improve capacity building and allow better technical skills transfer across its team to augment the government’s efforts.

The public health sector in Zambia has been experiencing a human resource crisis for several decades. Public health facilities reportedly function below the required capacity of qualified health personnel, which is attributed to the best workers leaving for more advanced economies such as the UK, Canada, Australia, and the USA.

“Medland is an internship site accredited by authorities, and we are here to offer proper education programs that can transfer technological skills to our local talents,” Dr. El Sahili points out, adding that they are using technology to support that academic side.

The hospital will also boost its partnerships with like-minded companies from the UAE and other countries in the future, believing that such partnerships will help build its capacity to meet its ambitious objectives.

As the hospital turns five, Dr. El Sahili applauds the great work the facility’s team has done to get it to where it is today. He hopes to expand Medland Hospital’s dream of community impact, transparency, and sustainability in the coming years.


Dr. El Sahili with a team of medical intern students

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