Tuesday 17 January 2017

Fergus Hoban

ROISIN BURKE

Published 07/08/2011 | 05:00

If you could bottle Hoban's enthusiasm, it would surely cure what ails you.

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As a young pharmacy graduate with an MBA, he shook up the fusty world of small, pharmacist-owned chemists, founding Unicare in 1996. It became a 38-outlet retail pharmacy chain posting a IR£40m turnover. Then German giant Gehe bought it for circa IR£100m in 2001, making Hoban a multimillionaire at just beyond 30 years of age.

He went on to work on what he had originally wanted to do with Unicare -- create one-stop-shop primary care centres. Soaring property prices stymied the vision, along with planning wrangles and opposition from GP and pharmacist bodies, but still he is undaunted.

"Now finally we have access to inexpensive property on every street corner, we have a proven model and we're moving at pace," he said.

Blackrock Hall in Mahon, Co Cork, is Touchstone Primary Care's pilot centre, a 50,000sq ft space with doctors, a dentist, physio, optician, chemist and 40,000 or so patients. The plan is for the HSE to occupy 20,000sq ft, bringing in public health nurses, social workers, social welfare officers etc.

The goal is a rollout of 21 centres and eventually "some kind of equity placement".

Hoban is CEO of Touchstone and also chairman of Carr Communications where he's been a main shareholder since 2004.

He and his wife Orna recently opened The Garden, in Ballintubbert, Co Laois, a 14-acre "Irish Sissinghurst".

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