HEALTH SPECTRUM

Malaysia 2017 | HEALTH | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Lau Beng Long, Managing Director of Sunway Healthcare Services, on developing medical personnel in the country, its collaborations with universities, and the synergies within the Sunway group.

Lau Beng Long
BIOGRAPHY
Lau Beng Long currently oversees the healthcare division of the Sunway Group and is in charge of Sunway Medical Centre as well as spearheading the planning and project management of new hospitals and other healthcare facilities in major cities in Malaysia. Prior to this, he held executive leadership positions in Pantai Medical Centre as well as Mount Alvernia Hospital and Assisi Hospice & Home in Singapore. He was also a planning and management consultant for healthcare projects in Malaysia, Indonesia, and the UAE. He holds a bachelor of science in biology from the University of Science, Malaysia, and a master’s in healthcare administration, University of New South Wales.

What is your current assessment of the medical staff in Malaysia and how do you work to develop your staff?

Our vision is to be involved in teaching the future generation of doctors, pharmacists, nurses, and other allied health professionals as well as to do relevant research. Having teaching and research in-house naturally helps us to upgrade our clinical services and improve the skill sets of our staff. In Malaysia, we have plenty of doctors; however, we are short on specialists. There are many graduates but training a specialist takes years. We want to have universities provide the training and on our end, we look to provide postgraduate scholarships so that our doctors and nurses can take specialist courses in their respective fields. We closely cooperate with the Ministry of Health to finalize such public-private partnerships—at the moment training is only done in public hospitals. If we structure ourselves well and our graduates feel that it is a great place for them to practice, with good technology and staff support, they will return after they finish their education.

Can you tell us more about your partnerships with foreign universities?

We are a private hospital group and our focus is on treatment; our research, therefore, is to support and improve our medical care. We have embarked on various research paths and routinely do clinical drug trails. Our doctors participate in these clinical trials, which are reactive by default. Our Chairman's Foundation sponsors professorial chairs in Cambridge and Oxford who collaborate with us on certain areas of research. We plan to work with Cambridge on a project on diabetes because Malaysia has the highest incidence rate of such cases in Asia and it is increasingly a major problem in China and India as well. Another area of interest is regenerative medicine, such as stem cell therapy. Globally, we can identify certain diseases that are more prevalent here than in regions with a predominantly Caucasian population. Our Harvard collaboration provides a one-year healthcare leadership program for managers in Southeast Asian nations.

What are the advantages of having horizontal integration of the Sunway Group?

The biggest synergy comes from the cooperation between Sunway University and Monash University Malaysian campus centers, because of the research and graduate exchange. The hotels are convenient for patients who come from outside the city, so their families can stay close by. The Sunway campus is well connected and public transport here is state-of-the-art. We provide aesthetic services for many foreign patients and they make a vacation out of it for their family. In addition, for both Sunway and Monash universities, around 30% of their students are international—both they and their families use our medical facilities as well. Sunway furthermore has a construction company, a real estate developer, and an investment holding, which eases the process of building our new blocks here and satellite hospitals in other towns. Our hospital in Kuala Lumpur serves as a tertiary referral medical hub with the full range of clinical expertise while hospitals around the country, such as in Ipoh, Penang, and Johor, provide more secondary healthcare.

What are your ambitions for the Sunway Medical Centre in the coming years?

We want to provide a whole spectrum of healthcare to our patients and be the primary specialist center of choice. By law, we cannot have our own GP clinics; however, we can have specialist clinics, so that is what we focus on. Thus, besides building five more satellite hospitals, we are in the midst of setting up two ambulatory care centers with specialist clinics and support facilities limited to just day care. These care centers will allow our specialists in the hospital to practice in the community. Another center is meant for independent, assisted living care services for senior citizens who want to stay in a safe and secure assisted environment and who need daily assistance with medication, or diabetes care or dementia, for example. Our ambition is to open a number of these residences.