Based in Kyiv, Ukraine, and providing specialised care in neurology, psychiatry and rehabilitation, Center Prioritet was established in 2018 by owner Oleksandr Kiian.
The company is a continuation of the activities of its sister clinic, the Centre for Brain Stimulation, and was formed with the ambition of helping those in need and assisting their inclusion in social and economic life. It is an admirable initiative that has taken on new meaning over the course of the past 11 months, with the Russian invasion of Ukraine complicating its roadmap for growth.
Through the EBRD’s Small Business Impact Fund (SBIF), Center Prioritet sought to overhaul its corporate standards and improve its organisational development and business processes so it could operate more effectively as it grew.
The war derailed the project, as many employees and their families initially fled the city and country, leaving a vacuum in the business and forcing its temporary closure. However, as people gradually returned to Kyiv the company began to recover and the project could resume in earnest.
Helping those in need
At its heart, Center Prioritet is a clinic providing specialised services in the counselling, treatment and rehabilitation of children and adult patients suffering from organic lesions of the central nervous system, cerebral palsy, autism spectrum disorders, and developmental and social adaptation delays. Historically, the company mainly worked with children up to the age of 10, but is now increasingly treating adults too.
The company name means ‘priority centre’ in English; a reference to the urgency required in identifying and treating a problem, ensuring patients are more likely to make a full recovery – especially so in the case of children.
The clinic deals in early diagnosis, disease confirmation, and the formulation and delivery of appropriate treatments where relevant. As Oleksandr says, “In cases that are connected with childhood illness, it is extremely important to start treatment as early as possible. Everyone knows that the sooner you start working with your child, the more likely you are to get lasting and meaningful results.”
A timely business intervention
Prior to 2022, the business was growing by 18-25 per cent annually, and with that growth, it became necessary to reorganise internal development and management structures and gain new certifications in order to ensure company operations remained streamlined and effective.
Oleksandr decided to reach out to the EBRD’s Advice for Small Businesses team in Kyiv for support, and through the SBIF, the Bank supported the company in addressing its structural inefficiencies related to its rapid rate of expansion.
“The EBRD programme was very motivational and I immediately understood the need to implement the suggestions that were identified as critical to business growth. Unfortunately, the entire staff broke away due to the invasion and I subsequently had to reassemble a team once Kyiv was relatively ‘secure’ again, but because I had the foundations of this new ready-made structure – including treatment protocols and training and adaptation programmes for employees – new and returning staff were quickly integrated into the workforce once more,” says Oleksandr.
Because of the EBRD project, new starters now receive a smooth onboarding and induction process, with all the job descriptions, business processes and corporate standards outlined by the end of their first day.
There are now over 150 members of staff, all of them professionals in their field. Oleksandr is preserving intellectual capital in the country by recruiting doctors who have moved from the occupied regions of Ukraine to work at Center Prioritet. His is nobly trying to retain them, at great cost to the business, but sees it as imperative in the current landscape.
Resilience and adaptation
Operating after a pause during the initial months of the invasion, Center Prioritet managed to reopen its clinics in Bila Tserkva and Vynohradar, Kyiv. The business also sent employees to 'medical hubs' dispersed in different districts in order to provide immediate specialised care to patients with special educational needs and disabilities.
Since the war started, the company has regained 30 per cent of its turnover – a remarkable achievement in the face of adversity and uncertainty, and despite having to constantly adapt its scheduling with patients due to the relentless shelling and energy shortages in the country.
It is clearly a struggle, but Oleksandr remains optimistic as he searches for new ways to promote the business. This is a difficult task at the best of times, but more challenging given the fluid and unpredictable nature of the current situation.
The plan is to begin a new project with the EBRD when the time is right. In the interim, he is looking to enhance visibility of the company through other means, in order to draw attention to its treatment programme for those in need, who are out of touch because of the war.
He would also like to expand to the de-occupied regions of Kherson, Mariupol and Donetsk as soon as possible, as there, medicine will be hard to find and many people will require good quality medical services as a matter of urgency.
International support needed for the preservation of human capital
Oleksandr is now looking for further international and charitable support and is determined to keep his head above the water while continuing to provide an increasingly vital service in the country. “In Ukraine, the situation for many families is increasingly difficult and fraught with uncertainty. Parents are suffering from extreme stress, psychological trauma, or severe injury – especially those who have been involved in military hostilities – while children require constant treatment and development. In order to meet those needs and survive as a business, I am currently looking for charitable organisations that could help fundraise to ensure that children, especially, receive a full treatment programme,” he says.
The business provides an essential service in a country that is suffering immeasurably under the weight of the Russian onslaught. Through Center Prioritet, Oleksandr has managed to employ a pool of talented doctors – helping to prevent brain drain locally – yet it is clear he needs more help in order to sustain the business and retain its most valuable assets in the context of the ongoing conflict: his staff.
If you would like to reach out to / support the company, you can contact Oleksandr by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.