Should Andres M Licaros Jr ever have a conversation with his 25-year-old self, the younger man might have trouble believing the story he is being told. Newly married and fresh out of his engineering studies, Licaros was working as a contractor building homes and warehouses. As a licensed civil engineer, the path ahead of him seemed mapped out in the Filipino construction industry.
Yet four decades on, it’s in health care where Licaros has carved out his niche. As the outgoing President and CEO of Asian Hospital and Medical Center (Asian Hospital), a role he stepped down from in November 2022, he has spent the past decade in charge of one of Manila’s leading private hospitals. The center has won multiple awards in recognition of its world-class standards and the hotel-like atmosphere it has cultivated.
“You get what you pay for in terms of excellent clinical outcomes and an unforgettable experience. We make both the patient and the family feel better as we make them well.”
The career detour happened early, triggered by the low pay and limited work opportunities in the domestic construction industry in the early 1980s. And it was as simple as applying for a role as a medical representative — and being hired. But now, boasting a biography overflowing with achievement, it’s hard not to believe that the healthcare field is exactly where he’s meant to be.
In 2008, Licaros was appointed President and CEO at Davao Doctors Hospital in Davao City, owned and run by Metro Pacific Health (MPH). It’s a role he attributes with giving him “a deep understanding of the inequalities and huge opportunities in access and delivery of quality patient care among (the) 25 million Filipinos inhabiting the island of Mindanao”. After leading the hospital to historic growth in revenue and profits, it was time for a new challenge with Asian Hospital – another hospital in the Metro Pacific Health (MPH) fold. He started in the role in 2012.
“Health care’s biggest challenge is the continued exodus of Filipino healthcare workers for higher paying jobs abroad.”
At Asian Hospital, Licaros set to work early. In his first year, shareholders were paid dividends for the first time since the hospital’s foundation a decade earlier, on the back of increased net profits after tax. He has also driven strategic objectives such as the hospital’s digitalization journey which began in 2017 with the implementation of the Electronic Medical Record Adoption Model as its road map.
But what he’s most proud of is the nurses and staff – and how they enable a brand of compassionate care that sets Asian Hospital apart from everyone else. “You get what you pay for in terms of excellent clinical outcomes and an unforgettable experience,” he says. “We make both the patient and the family feel better as we make them well.”
This tone of operational excellence is set by the executive leadership. “We’ve been able to create a happy experience for everyone in the workplace through thoughtful leadership that started from my office,” Licaros explains. “For me, leadership in action means always being present and mindful of the needs of our frontline staff. An environment that fosters learning and growth is unique at Asian Hospital, thus providing a meaningful engagement for every employee no matter how briefly they worked with us.”
As he reflects on the past three years in particular, he says they have been some of the most testing of his career. “But, as I always say, it’s all in a day’s work. The immense opportunity to serve the needs of others, especially at their darkest hours and in times of great uncertainty, is enough to make my day at work complete,” he says.
The COVID-19 pandemic has, he continues, “decimated” the workforces of all hospitals in developed countries and this is the most important test the industry currently faces. “Health care’s biggest challenge is the continued exodus of Filipino healthcare workers for higher paying jobs abroad,” Licaros says.
Yet Asian Hospital’s staff who have chosen to pursue opportunities overseas have left with his blessing. “We’ve done exit interviews with everyone who has left as I have wanted to assure them that we wish them well. If there’s anything they need, whether they are in Chicago or London, we’re just an email away and we’re ready to take care of their families here. They appreciate that,” he says.
How do you unwind when you’re not at work?
I read books, and listen to jazz while riding my stationary bike and rowing machine. I spend time with my wife and grandchildren every opportunity I get. We love going on road trips and hiking.
What makes a good leader?
A good leader listens and listens well. They act with resolve to address the issues and concerns facing their team.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Never lose that desire to learn and grow. There is no limit to what our minds can explore and learn. But the best part of this journey comes when you are able to share the little that you know with others and help them become better leaders, professionals and people.
For those who have chosen to remain in the country, Licaros explains that the pandemic has allowed the organization to demonstrate that “while we mean what we promise to every patient, we mean it more for the families of our employees”.
“When I say we are a family, we really do take care of them,” he continues. “We didn’t force them to come here. We wanted them to understand that, while we want to do good for others, we surely have to put a higher standard on taking care of the families of our doctors, healthcare workers and other staff.”
“Asian Hospital will continue to pursue being a value-based, quality healthcare provider to all who need our clinical expertise.”
As he passes the baton to his successor, Licaros can be assured that the strategies put in place during his tenure will continue to be enacted. “Asian Hospital will continue to pursue being a value-based, quality healthcare provider to all who need our clinical expertise,” he says. “Our promise of ‘Better Outcomes at a Lower Total Cost of Care’ will remain our north star.”