Meet our clinical team
We invest in medical equipment and service development to close existing service gaps, ultimately leading the way to a better healthcare in Georgia.
Our focus for the next 2-3 years
We invest in medical equipment, eliminating existing service gaps, particularly in oncology, high tech diagnostics, laboratory, and specialist services. Providing patients with guidance and quality care is our ultimate mission. And eventually, it is the first class leaders of our medical team that are driving the improvement of service quality and access to healthcare across the organisation. We capitalise on existing service gaps and overall lower quality of medical care in the country and on the other hand improved access to healthcare services through UHC financing. Need for improvement as evidenced by low incidence levels in these specialities (e.g. malignant neoplasms incidence rate in Georgia: 110.1, EU: 543.7), as well as c.US$100 million national spending on medical services import. the leaders of our medical team provide insights about the healthcare service gaps in Georgia and our focus for the next 2-3 years in terms of investment and development.
Gregory (Gia) Khurtsidze
Chief Clinical Officer
Despite the high number of doctors available in Georgia, the average age of our doctors is 50, they mostly come with Soviet medical education and we have a shortage of doctors in a number of areas. Therefore, the main priority for my team and me is sourcing and expertise advancement of our physicians. Evidence based medicine and western standards of care is our baseline. We have been working on design and the development of residency programmes since 2014, which we launched in 2015. I am glad to see high demand for our residency programmes (we received 120 applications for the 43 residency position within the first month of the announcement), which shows both, the reputation of our organisation and strong demand on the market for this profession. We also have re-training of currently practicing physicians. Our residents benefit from our collaboration with Georgian doctors that work abroad (USA, Europe, Middle East), who deliver classes via teleconferences and provide hands-on experience sessions during visits in Georgia. Our Goal for the next several years is to develop a sufficient number of doctors in the shortage areas and retrain the majority of our existing physicians.
Mr. Khurtsidze joined GHG in February 2016. Prior to that, he worked at New Hospital in Tbilisi, Georgia and St. John Hospital North West Kaiser Permanente Division in Longview, WA and Huron Hospital, Cleveland, OH. M.D in General Medicine, trained in internal medicine and as a hospitalist, licensed in Washington and Kentucky, US.
Head of Quality Management
Despite effective healthcare reforms in the areas of financing and infrastructure, Georgia has not done much yet in the area of Quality Management since the Soviet era. On the other hand, our scale provides us with sufficient resources to develop our internal quality management system, which helps us standardise and ensure patient safety and a quality of medical care that we have developed and benchmarked against the international, EU and Joint Commission International (JCI) standards. We have also adopted various infection control procedures at our hospitals in partnership with external consultants including JCI Consultancy, CDC Atlanta, CDC Georgia, Emory University and the WHO European Regional Office. Our reputation for high quality care has also been strengthened by our global collaborations with leading institutions including the Mayo Clinic, John Snow Inc., URC, the Rostropovich Vishnevskaya Foundation and USAID. Our attention has been focused on the highest risk areas. The goal for the next several years is to develop and implement quality management measures at a larger scale within our healthcare facilities including components of quality activities, such as full risk management, antibiotic stewardship, and surgery care improvement project and trauma registry.
Ms. Butskhrikidze joined the GHG in November 2014. Prior to that, she worked as a quality management officer at the Tbilisi Central University Hospital, was the coordinator of the emergency medicine project in Georgia. M.D in General Medicine.
Head of Nursing Service Department
The World Health Organisation recommends a nurse to doctor ratio of 4:1 for Georgia, compared to our current ration of 0.9 nurses per doctor.
To address this issue, we launched a post-graduate nurse training programme two years ago. This is an intensive nine month curriculum, and we have already retrained 1,960 out of our 2,738 nurses. To source new nurses, we launched Nurse College together with the leading medical institute in Georgia. More than 200 nurses are expected to graduate from the college every year. We will be funding the education of the top performers in the class to incentivise the applicants, as currently the demand to join the nursing profession is not favourable in Georgia. To popularise the nursing profession, we also promote it on social media and through TV.
The goal for the next several years is to accomplish 2:1 nurse to doctor ratio by continuing our current training and teaching initiatives.
Ms. Dowse joined GHG in 2013. Prior to that, she worked at Jo Ann Medical Centre (Cardiology Hospital) in Georgia, Princess Margaret hospital in the UK, Cardinal Health of Swindon in the UK and was a Project Officer at the Salvation Army (UK).
Marika Toidze, MD
Head of Internal Medicine and the Ambulatory Service Department
Outpatient encounters in Georgia are low at 3.5 a year, compared to the CIS average of 8.9 and European Region countries of 7.5, according to WHO. We have a strong self-treatment culture in Georgia and on the other hand, the availability of quality ambulatory clinics is limited and the market is highly fragmented. To provide strong primary care to our patients we needed to create physical access, offer quality care and increase patient awareness. At the end of 2014, we tested the concept and in 2015, accelerated our ambulatory launch strategy, which implies the opening of around 30 ambulatory clinics, in Tbilisi and major regional cities, during 2015 and 2016. Patients like our clinics and insurance companies, that place GPs at our clinics note higher demand for GPs placed at our clinics compared to the competition. The Universal Healthcare Programme helps increase patients’ access to the primary healthcare. Our goal for the next several years is to complete the roll-out of ambulatory clinics and increase awareness for the access and the quality of care, to boost utilisation.
Ms. Toidze joined GHG in 2012. Prior to this, she was a Chief Medical Officer at Sachkhere Medical Centre for almost a decade. Ms. Toidze participated for several years in clinical and research activities in Milan University Hospital and Weill Medical College of Cornell University in New York Presbyterian Hospital. She is a ECFMG certified Medical Doctor, MD in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
Nino Abesadze, MD
Head of the Laboratory Service Department
Both the utilisation and quality of laboratory services are very low in Georgia, a number of lab tests are still sent to the laboratories abroad. The role of quality laboratory services is critical in the development of primary healthcare in Georgia. Building up customer trust has been our primary focus for the last three years. Since 2012, we started improving the service quality by investing in equipment, personnel training and process standardisation. Currently, three of our referral hospitals are certified with ISO 900:12008 and the rest of our healthcare facilities also adhere to the same standards of service. We have also focused on the efficiency of our operations and set up referral laboratories at our referral hospitals that perform lab tests on behalf of our other clinics. Currently we run 10 referral and 30 non-referral laboratories. Our goal for the next several years is to launch a mega-laboratory in Tbilisi, Georgia, which will consolidate our investment and replace our referral laboratories in order to further improve the quality of tests as well as increase the range of tests.
Ms. Abesadze joined GHG in 2011 through the acquisition of Kutaisi Referral Hospital, where she was the head of the clinical laboratory. Prior to this, she was a Doctor and a Bursar of Professor Landbeck at the University Medical Centre Hamburg- Eppendorf (UKE), Oncology and Haematology department for children (Germany). She holds a state certificate in Paediatrics, Transfusiology, Haematology, and Laboratory Medicine, is a certified internal auditor at Lloyd’s Register of Quality Management Systems and a PhD candidate.
Alexi Baidoshvili, MD, PhD
Head of the Pathology Service Department
Pathology services do not exist in Georgia today. Whilst there are laboratories, the methodology and the skills, as well as the equipment that is used to carry out pathology tests is vastly outdated and 30 years behind those used in Europe – therefore test results are not reliable. Patients mostly mail the test materials to foreign clinics. The lack of proper pathology service spills over to other services, particularly the oncology services, creating a substantial service gap and deficiency. It takes years to develop some services and pathology is one of them. At GHG, we started working on this project several years ago. Success in pathology largely depends on skilled personnel and I am glad that we already have Georgian specialists, trained at the Laboratory of Pathology East Netherlands (LabPON) with the ultimate goal to return to Georgia to kick-start the pathology service. Our plan for the next several years is to launch a proper pathology service – the first such laboratory in Georgia, which will be part of a mega-laboratory.
Mr. Baidoshvili joined GHG in 2013. He is an active board member of several organisations and organiser of international annual conferences. President of the Georgian International Medical and Public Health Association (GIMPA). He is an honorary President of the International Academy of Pathology Georgian Division (IAP GD). Graduated from the VU University Amsterdam, specialising in Pathology at the VU Medical Centre in Amsterdam.
Koba Kiknavelidze, MD, PhD
Head of the Kutaisi Oncology Centre
Cancer diagnostics and treatment are in the early stages of development in Georgia, which is evidenced by very low reported incidence levels. For example, malignant neoplasms incidence rate in Georgia is 140.3, compared to 543.7 in EU, and the detection of over 30% of malignant neoplasms occur at stage IV, in many cases too late. This is due to the lack of investment in the service provision, lack of physicians and generally a low check-up culture in Georgia. To address this issue, in 2015 we launched West-Georgia Oncology Centre, which is equipped with the most up-to-date technology including the only linear accelerator in west Georgia and aims to become the major oncology centre for the west Georgian population. We invited two specialists from the US to support local physicians initially. Within the first three months of operations, we have achieved 80% utilisation. We support the detection stage with free-check-up programmes. Until then, the oncology service was only available in Tbilisi. Our goal for the next several years is to provide good quality oncology diagnostics and treatment to west Georgia’s population (about 1.8 million people) so that they don’t have to travel to the capital for the service. This enhances the variety of services provided, as well as increasing the capacity of our Oncology Centre, on the back of increased demand.
Mr. Kiknavelidze joined GHG in 2011, through the acquisition of Kutaisi Referral Hospital, where he worked as Chief Clinical Officer. Prior to this, he worked at the National Centre of Urology in Georgia and the University Hospital of Mannheim in Germany. Scholar of the European Association of Urology. MD in Urology and Oncology.
Tamar Antelava, MD, PhD
Head of the OB-GYN Service unit
Georgia has the highest number of caesarean sections per 1,000 live births among the former Soviet Union republics – 39% of the total number of all deliveries in 2014. The maternal mortality ratio per live births is three-times higher in Georgia than in the European Region. Poor care during pregnancy spills over to the neonatal and paediatric fields. As a member of the committee that works on the national policy for maternal and child care policy in Georgia and as the head of the ob-gyn division at GHG, the largest ob-gyn unit in the country, I have an opportunity to both influence the policy as well as implement it in our healthcare facilities. GHG’s cluster business model is best suited to leverage the national regionalisation of perinatal services (introduction of levels of care). Our focus is on establishing the levels of care starting from villages though the referral centres, as well as the training of medical personnel to use relevant protocols. Progress is evident, as the share of women beginning antenatal care has increased and is now almost 80%, up from 50% in 2003, but there is enormous room for improvement with service quality in maternal care. IVF service is scarcely developed and Georgians mostly travel abroad for this service – we will be launching the service in the second quarter of 2016.
Ms. Antelava joined GHG in 2015. Previously, she worked at Chachavas Clinic – a leading ob-gyn clinic in Georgia. She is a JSI expert and trainer, a member of the Maternal and Children’s coordination board at The Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs since 2013 and a member of the ob-gyn association in Georgia.
Davit Tsibadze, MD, PhD
Head of the Maternal and Children’s Health Service Department
Issues in maternal care spill over to children’s health, particularly at neonatal age. In Georgia, neonatal mortality was 60-80% of under-five mortality during previous years, well above the 43% global average. When I joined GHG in 2012, proper neonatal services were only available in one hospital in Tbilisi (Iashvili Hospital). All regional hospitals referred patients to Iashvili, which was working over its capacity, and many patients did not simply have access to a proper service. We could not improve services in the regions, because these simply did not exist. We started by launching neonatal units (conservative, surgical and intensive care) at our regional referral hospitals, one by one. We invested in equipment, and most importantly in personnel training, both physicians and nurses, where the help from our colleagues at the Mayo clinic was crucial, and who also helped us develop in-house trainers. We introduced referral protocols. Today, we have two neonatal units in our regions and the referral of patients to Iashvili decreased to 40%. Our goal for the next several years is to launch neonatal units at the two remaining referral hospitals and continue training and developing of our personnel to further decrease the referral rate from regions to Tbilisi.
Mr. Tsibadze joined GHG in 2013. Prior to this, he was the Head of the Department of Emergency and Critical Care at M. Iashvili Children’s Central Hospital and worked at Jeanne de Flandre Hospital of Lille, Timone Marseille University Hospital, Purpan-Toulouse Paediatric Hospital Network in France. MD in Neonatology and Intensive Care.
Maria Lipka, MD
Head of the Paediatric Service Unit
The biggest share of medical services import in Georgia comes from paediatric services, due to a lack of availability of services and their quality. On the other hand, the culture of regular visits to the doctor at an early paediatric age exists, as a favourable heritage from Soviet-times. To address the gap in service supply, we are focusing on two areas – increasing access to basic paediatric services in our regional hospitals by setting up paediatric units (conservative, surgical and critical care) and introducing referral protocols to decrease referrals to hospitals in Tbilisi. We are also developing services that do not exist or where there is a shortage in their supply, like paediatric cardiosurgery, oncology, neurology, etc. Developing physicians is the most important step to succeed in both areas. Success of our residency programme is important to source paediatricians for our paediatric units and our collaborations with physicians and centres abroad helps us kick-start new services. We have launched six paediatric units in the last two years and plan to launch four more.
Ms. Lipka joined GNG in 2014. Prior to this, she worked at the Paediatric Transplantology Centre in Warsaw, Poland, and at Mid- Western Regional Hospital of University of Limerick, Ireland. MD in paediatrics and paediatric nephrology.
Zaza Katsitadze, MD, PhD
Head of the Cardiac Surgery Service Department
While the cardiac surgical services is one of the well-developed services in Georgia, two major gaps still exist: access to services in the regions of Georgia and therapeutic cardiology. These gaps are evidenced by a hospitalisation rate per 100,000 population that was 1,647 in 2014, which is two-fold less than in CIS and European Union countries. Additionally, cardiovascular diseases represent 16.5% of deaths, which includes 51% of deaths due to strokes and 45% of deaths due to coronary heart disease. When I joined GHG in 2013, my main goal was to build a holistic cardiology service from diagnostics, through management and to surgery, as well as increase regional access. Since then, we have launched three catheterisation laboratories and four full scale cardio surgery units. We trained and recruited three interventional cardiologists and three cardiac surgeons. Our goal is to launch another fully-fledged cardiology units within our hospitals within the next three years, and increase utilization and capabilities of the existing units.
Mr. Katsitadze joined GHG in 2013. Prior to that, he worked at N. Kipshidze University Clinic in Georgia, the University Hospital in Switzerland, the Regional Hospital in Tallinn, Estonia, the University Hospital of Geneva in Switzerland and the Cardio-Thoracic Surgery Association of Europe in Linz, Austria, Jo Ann Medical Centre. MD in paediatrics.
Head of the Emergency Care Medicine Service Department
Emergency units simply did not exist in Georgia until several years ago. To cover the lack of emergency specialists, hospitals had to staff emergency units with over 15 different specialists, which decreased the quality and efficiency of the ER. Strong ER units in each of our hospitals is a cornerstone of our business model, and it implies a strong referral system between community and referral hospitals. We started addressing this issue in 2011, and this involved two areas: the physical redesign of hospital admission units to transform them into ER units, and staffing with ER physicians and nurses. The former proved most challenging, as there were only 20 licensed ER specialists in the entire country in 2011 and we needed at least four specialists per hospital. Therefore, partnered with the licensed training centre and later we launched our own licensed training centre. Since then, we have launched five emergency units and have three more launches in the pipeline for the next two years.
Dr. Kikodze joined GHG in 2012. Prior, she worked at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in the US. Along with Emory University, Dr. Kikodze opened and launched the first Pediatric Emergency Care Department in Georgia and arranged and led the first PALS training courses in Georgia. Dr. Kikodze has launch number of emergency care departments in Georgian hospitals since 2011. Ms. Kikodze is the founder and head of International Association of Paediatric Critical Care in Georgia.
Salome Glonti, MD, PhD
Head of the Clinical Trials Coordination Unit
During the last three years, the number of clinical trials carried out at our healthcare facilities has increased from three to 35. The team comprises of over 30 Clinical Research Coordinators, over 30 Principal Investigators and over 50 Investigators across 12 sites. We conduct phase II, and phase III international multi-centric clinical trials, upholding ethical standards as defined by GCP, GOG, WHO, the Helsinki Declaration, and the US Government DHHS/OHRP. In 2015, Batumi Referral Hospital received an INSPIRE site status. Our goal is to further increase the scope of our engagement in the clinical trials carried out in the Caucasus region.
Ms. Glonti joined GHG in 2013, when we launched the Batumi Referral Hospital. In addition to coordinating clinical trials at our healthcare facilities, she is head of the Internal Medicine department and Endocrinology unit at GHG’s Batumi Referral Hospital. Author of more than 30 scientific works. She is a member of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) and the European Thyroid Association (ETA).
Nur Balaban, MD, PhD
Head of the International Sales
The shortage and poor quality of medical services in Georgia lead to about US$100 million worth of medical services taking place outside Georgia annually, which means Georgians travelling to Turkey, Israel and Europe for healthcare services. On the other hand, prices of healthcare services in Georgia are the lowest in the region, at least half of the prices charged in Turkey, which is an opportunity for attracting medical tourism to the country. For the next several years, the main focus of my unit is two-fold: 1. Reverse tourism – work with the heads of medical service units to identify and develop services where we have service gaps so that Georgians can use services locally instead of travelling abroad; 2. Medical tourism – attract patients from the neighbouring countries for the services where we have relatively good quality and competitive prices. Currently, this primarily includes specialised surgery (cardio, neurology, transplantology, plastic surgery, urology, radiation therapy, etc.).
Ms. Balaban joined GHG in 2015 after 11 years of academical work and consultancy both in Ministerio de Salud in Santiago Chile and Universidad Catolica de Chile in Santiago. Various terms of time worked as a field surgeon with Medecins Sans Frontieres in Kosovo, Bosnia, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Nicaragua and Argentina. Most recently Ms. Balaban was general and international manager at Tinaztepe Hospital in Turkey. Studied Medicine at University College London