OPEN WIDE

Malaysia 2016 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Dr. Chong Su-Lin, CEO of Prince Court Medical Centre, on a history of expansion, the center's diversity of patients, and factors that make Malaysia's health care system an affordable alternative.

 Dr. Chong Su-Lin
BIOGRAPHY
A graduate of the Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine, London, Dr. Chong Su-Lin began her career in the National Health Service, UK, following which she took an MBA at the London Business School. This was followed by a stint in management consultancy in the field of pharmaco-economics. She returned to Malaysia in 1995 and has since been in hospital administration, starting at the Subang Jaya Medical Centre (Sime Darby Healthcare) as Director of Ancillary Services, then at the International Medical University as Project Director. Dr. Chong Su-Lin then spent just over a decade at the helm of Sunway Medical Centre before taking up her current position as CEO of Prince Court Medical Centre in Kuala Lumpur.

The hospital is wholly owned by Petroliam Nasional Berhad (PETRONAS). What is your relationship with the company?

We have a Board of Directors consisting of PETRONAS staff. We are not governed by the board, rather we have our own management in place locally, however we are owned as an entity. We hold regular meetings to discuss issues, receive feedback, and work closely with its occupational health and health and safety unit. We have linkups with all the other oil and gas companies, such as Shell, ExxonMobil.

What kind of clients do you see?

This is a tertiary care hospital that covers a diversity of services. When we started out, people didn't even know this was a hospital; however, now we treat a variety of health concerns including strokes and cardiac arrests. We also have many patients who come in for cosmetic surgery, especially from Australia. We have a large pre-occupational health department; therefore, many people come for pre-employment on the oil rigs. In addition, we have an executive health center that offers comprehensive packages. We also have a scope of professional services, from robotic technology to oncology services. We offer a whole myriad of services.

Prince Court has a partnership with Maybank. What other partnerships do you have?

We have another partnership in Indonesia with Citi Bank. Basically, the credit card pays us the bill, and then there is a 0% interest installment for the patient to settle. It is a fair system. Citi Bank was the first in Indonesia and Maybank followed in its footsteps. There is a possibility that another bank will enter the market there, with HSBC, Standard Chartered or CIMB among the favorites.

Prince Court is consistently ranked among the best for medical tourism. What are the advantages of Malaysia as a destination for healthcare?

Due to our colonial past, much of our medical training has been British-based. The average consumer will choose a British qualification above one from Australia or the US. We have always been strong in post-graduate training, and being English-speaking helps. It is a combination of British and Australian-trained individuals, and then more recently local post-graduates. This has been one of our major strengths. The other aspect, which has been a matter of some debate in the region is that we have a fee schedule; therefore, the doctor cannot charge you above a set ceiling. There is a single rate, whether you are foreign or local. It will cost the same no matter who you are. Singapore has gone to a free market so there is no fee schedule; neither is there one in Thailand or Indonesia. For us, our expatriate and foreign patients comprise about a quarter of our patient load.

From which markets are you seeing unprecedented growth?

Kazakhstan is one, but I am not sure what triggered it. A trade mission from Kazakhstan came here about two years ago. The one drawback is that the direct flights only come from Almaty. There is no direct flight from the capital, Astana. We are in talks with the Ministry of Health and it is keen to work with us; however, it is about getting that relationship and the logistics going.

What contribution will healthcare make to the Malaysian economy as the country moves toward 2020?

If you look at the key economy areas for healthcare, it involves medical tourism, health insurance for foreign workers so that they don't burden the public sector, and then E&E and medical devices. There are also generic pharmaceuticals.