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Interview with Preggie Naidoo, CEO Iso Leso

Ed – Are you still practicing optometry in Cape Town?
PR: Yes I am, and enjoying it immensely whilst completing my Therapeutics Internship at Groote Schuur Hospital.

Ed – How long have you served as CEO of Iso Leso?
PR: Just about 10 years.

Ed – How did you get involved with Iso Leso?
PR: Strangely, it was a crisis in 2003 with ProSano Medical Scheme that resulted in Peter Muller asking me to consider joining the board after I joined Chiasma at a Cape Town members’ meeting….and the rest is history!

Ed – Vision interviewed you in 2012. A lot must have changed in the network space since then.
PR: It definitely has, with the shift in the philosophy in healthcare to a quality outcome. Increasingly, there is a move to validate the quality outcomes that are claimed by networks and providers. In addition, of concern is the move by administrators to develop sophisticated vertically integrated business models, that include network provision. Understandably, there is a profit incentive for the administrator, which sometimes places providers’ interests under pressure. Optometry needs to ensure that we are suitably represented by organizations that can lobby/defend our interests. Optometry is being asked to increase its value beyond a pair of spectacles.

Ed – What is Iso Leso’s transformation status?
PR: Our BBBEE status is largely determined by the dynamics of our shareholder base and is currently level 5 under the latest rules.

Ed – What are the Iso Leso principles?
PR: No corporate ownership, preventing any one or groups of optometrists to enjoy dominance over the others. The members of the Board do not own more shares, or have more control than any ordinary shareholder. It offers an opportunity for all practicing optometrist to become equitable shareholders. It has no controlling shareholder, nor any third party vested interests.

Ed- Who is eligible to join?
PR: Membership is open to any practising South African optometrist in good standing with all related regulatory authorities.

Ed – How do you elect your Board?
PR: The board is elected by shareholders at the AGM.

Ed – How is Iso Leso run?
PR: All board members are practicing optometrists and therefore appoint an EXCO to manage strategic execution together with a contracted administration team, that is tasked with routine company management.

Ed – What is the dividend policy?
PR: Iso Leso’s policy is to ensure maximal return for participating shareholder optometrists, with minimal company surplus to allow for financial stability. In this light, Iso Leso does not levy settlement discounts on accounts that allow for company profiteering at the expense of providers. Dividends are only considered for payment if the company has surplus funds that exceed financial risk.

Ed – What are some of the major enhancements in recent years that you offer your shareholders?
PR: Over and above the financial benefits that are negotiated for our shareholders, they enjoy free CPD, Optical Assistant access and preferential discounts from Healthbridge. We have followed a strategy to prepare our shareholders to manage the evolving healthcare landscape. It must be accepted that material costs are being targeted in all healthcare disciplines, and optometry is not exempt. To this end, we need to embrace the need to enhance/improve our clinical skills so that we remain relevant. Iso Leso has sought strategic partnerships with The Graduate Institute of Optometry and African Vision Institute, to develop the Practitioner Enhancement Programme (PEP). This is the first step in developing integrated clinical care, including ophthalmological oversight and audited quality outcomes. The immediate future includes an Artificial Intelligence (AI) test bed, which bodes well for positioning our Network and its shareholders as leaders in our field.

Ed- How many shareholders do you have?
PR: 1200

Ed – What are some of the challenges and frustrations Iso Leso has to deal with?
PR: Unfortunately, professionals are often judged by the lowest common denominator, which in healthcare is fraudulent behaviour. A small but significant number of our colleagues persist in profiteering at the expense of the profession. This taints our best efforts in bringing new initiatives to market, as funders are reluctant to commit to new products with the threat of fraud being ever present.

In addition, competitor networks use this to their advantage and base their value proposal on this threat. It is of concern that the success of a network tends to be judged on its ability to counter fraud and not on its ability to deliver optometric innovations and solutions.

Understandably, there is reluctance from a minority of colleagues who view professional change as a challenge. One needs to review the evolution of optometry in Australia, the UK and the USA to understand the need for change so that we allow the profession to flourish and develop.

Ed – I know you are a devoted family man, but what happens in your spare time and do you have an indulgence?
PR: I am a petrolhead and love keeping up to speed with the latest developments in the automotive industry. In addition, I enjoy running and the Cape is a wonderful place to pursue this interest.

Thank you Preggie – keep up the good work.

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