FOR YOUR HEALTH

Malaysia 2016 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Ahmad Shahizam bin Mohd Shariff, CEO of Pantai Operations Division of Parkway Pantai, on Malaysia's strategic position in their global operations, how to boost medical tourism, and collaborating with higher learning institutions.

Ahmad Shahizam bin Mohd Shariff
BIOGRAPHY
Ahmad Shahizam bin Mohd Shariff began his career in banking with HSBC Malaysia in 1994 and subsequently at ING Barings and Citigroup Salomon Smith Barney as an investment analyst. In 2004, he joined Khazanah National Berhad as Special Officer to the Managing Director and eventually assumed the position of Director of Investments, responsible for Khazanah’s investments in the healthcare and power sectors. In 2008, he was appointed as an Alternate Director of Parkway Holdings Limited (Parkway) and Director of Pantai Holdings Berhad and IMU Health Sdn Bhd, before his appointment as Executive Director of Parkway in November 2010. In July 2014, he assumed the role of Chief Executive Officer of Pantai Operations Division and is responsible for the overall operation of Pantai group in Malaysia, as well as the corporate functions at Parkway Pantai’s Malaysia operations. He also assumed the role of IHH’s Head of Investor Relations and Corporate Communications.

Parkway Pantai is part of IHH Healthcare Berhad, the second largest healthcare group in the world. How does it leverage its parent company and the strength of its shareholders?

Having a regional and global presence helps, because we have seen that things that work here in Malaysia also work in Turkey, Singapore, China, and India. That gives us an ability to make decisions about how best to go about managing our business. Our focus is building long-term defensible positions in our home markets, which are Malaysia, Singapore, and Turkey. We do that by delivering superior clinical outcomes and services, not just in the markets that we are already present but also in new markets that we are keen to go into, especially in Asia. Even though we are the second largest healthcare service provider, we remain focused on growing our business. Today, IHH already has over 7,000 beds across 10 countries at 39 hospitals. But we are still adding capacity and will eventually have over 10,000 beds across various geographies over the next two or three years.

How does the group work to make Malaysia a hub for medical tourism?

Malaysia is in a strong position because it serves a huge catchment area due to its prime location in the region, covering China and large parts of Asia, such as India, Indonesia and the Philippines. However, location alone is not enough if there are no services or facilities to cater for the needs of these travelers, which is where we come in—our standards and facilities at IHH are world class and we have hospitals that are JCI accredited. Secondly, medical travel cannot flourish without supporting infrastructure and good transportation links. On average, a patient coming from abroad for treatment will bring at least two relatives or friends who will need to stay somewhere, eat, and relax while the patient recovers. If there is a lack of basic tourism-related infrastructure such as hotels and accommodation, food and beverage, and shopping facilities, people will not come. That is why our facilities are strategically located—our larger hospitals, in Penang and Kuala Lumpur for example, are in the heart of the local commercial district, as is the new one we have just opened in Kota Kinabalu.

How can academic institutions work with the private sector hospitals?

Our industry relies heavily on human capital, and IHH has its own medical education arm—IMU Health—as part of its investment into the longer-term development for Malaysia's healthcare sector. There is a global shortage of good and experienced nurses. For a long time, Malaysia has been a net exporter of high-quality nurses. Our nurses have always been very marketable, even to Singapore, because of the multiculturalism in Malaysia. They typically leave for places such as the Middle East or to UK, and even to Australia. The majority of these nurses come back to Malaysia eventually, and when they do, they come back with global experience that they can apply locally. IHH, through IMU, has a large nursing school in Malaysia, International Medical College (IMC), where we train over 400 nurses a year who are well-regarded and in demand. As for doctors, we at IHH work closely with local universities to inform them of the sectors within healthcare that we foresee increased demand, which helps to gives them a sense of future needs. IHH also runs a large private medical university, International Medical University (IMU), the first private medical university in Malaysia with the right to confer medical degrees. Because it has been around for over 20 years, many of the original graduates have now become specialists serving in our Malaysia hospitals and across the globe.