Health Ministry mulls SMC takeover
Kinabalu, Apr 13, 2009:
Health Ministry experts have completed an apparently exhaustive
evaluation of the Sabah Medical Centre building, facilities and
services in the Damai area of Luyang in Kota Kinabalu pending a
takeover decision by the federal government within six months. The
SMC is a premier private hospital which is the first to operate in
"The property under consideration would become the new Queen
Elizabeth II General Hospital for Kota Kinabalu," according to a
spokesperson for SMC.
QEH II has been stricken since last October after its Tower Block
was declared unsafe due to extensive corrosion of the structure
which employed sea sand - and the hospital decanted. The ministry,
judging from public records, knew about the problem years in advance
but apparently chose to sit on its hands until the Tower Block was
on the point of imminent collapse.
However, the SMC spokesperson could not shed any light on when the
evaluation and inspection was completed and when the six months
deadline would expire, a point castigated by Sabah People's
Progressive Party (Sapp), among others, in its website.
Sapp information chief Chong Pit Fah, in a brief telephone call, did
not want to be drawn into public speculation that the SMC wants to
put public pressure on the ministry to speed up the purchase of
their property, facilities and services but added "of course they
want to sell". It has been more than six months since it was
decanted, he noted. "There are too many stories surrounding the
on-going tragedy of the general hospital since it was decanted."
The ministry is currently purchasing facilities and services at SMC
for the GH as well as drawing on the resources of other private and
government hospitals in the state besides flying urgent cases to
Kuching, Kuala Lumpur and Penang.
The SMC spokesperson, explaining the public disclosure of the talks
with the ministry, stressed that his medical centre merely wants to
put to rest the endless public speculation on the matter.
Furthermore, "erroneous" reporting by the media in the absence of
active co-operation from some of the stakeholders has compounded
the problem and created "an image problem" for SMC in the minds of
the public, according to the spokesperson. Hence, it was time to
reveal some official details.
Most efficient option
The spokesperson did not dwell too much on the specifics of the
erroneous reporting beyond disputing the figures mentioned for the
purchase of the SMC and pointing out that there is no old and new
SMC, only one SMC. In short, getting into semantics if not splitting
hairs, SMC has never been sold in the past and the question of
selling the SMC in future does not also arise.
"The proposed plan includes provision of 300 in-patient beds, 29 ICU
(Intensive Care Unit) beds, two cardiac operating theatres, two
cardiac laboratories, five operating theatres and all the relevant
facilities, at the same time allowing QEH to carry out its expansion
plans in line with MoH specifications and requirements," said the
SMC spokesman getting into the details of the inspection and
"And within two years, SMC will be handing over to the MoH, a
tertiary care hospital that is equipped with 450 beds including 43
ICU beds, 12 operating theatres, two cardiac laboratories, a
complete range of specialist departments, all the required hospital
back-up facilities, besides a fully-equipped heart centre and more
than 500 parking bays."
The spokesperson stressed that "based on our knowledge and
experience", the purchase of the SMC property could be the most
efficient option for the ministry to obtain an additional 300 beds
within six months and an additional 450 beds in 24 months.
"If the said proposed plan is implemented it would completely
address the ongoing crisis in QEH within six months. This includes
the shortage of 265 inpatient beds at QEH. SMC is a
readily-available, professionally designed-and-built hospital whose
design has taken into consideration the requirements of the medical
profession and that of the patients and their families."
The spokesperson gave an assurance that "the price to be offered by
SMC would definitely be lower compared to the cost of private
hospital projects built in the past by the government." There have
been reports in the recent past that the ministry's takeover of the
SMC property in Luyang is dependent on the state government forking
out half the purchase cost. The state government sees no reason for
this since health is a federal matter, according to reliable sources
in the know.
He described it as a gross insult to SMC and its management who are
being portrayed in public by the media as "some sort of merchandise
that is up for grabs in the market." It was never the intention of
the SMC to be built with the possibility of later selling it to the
government, added the spokesperson, "but to provide the best medical
facilities to the public," citing its state-of-the-art design,
supported by the best equipment, professional manpower and services
that money can buy.
RM50mil boutique hospital
SMC's relationship with the ministry and QEH has been long
established, the spokesperson pointed out, including the provision
of such services like heart surgery, cardiovascular treatment and
radiotherapy which were not available at the general hospital.
"Within three days of the decanting of QEH, we made available two
floors of our wards to the GH, nine ICU beds, three operating
theatres and all relevant services including creating a dedicated
entrance and waiting area for the convenience of client's medical
staff, patients and their families," said the spokesperson
dispelling the notion that SMC did not want the riff-raff mixing
with their well-heeled patients.
"It was during this period that the ministry expressed an interest
in purchasing our ready-made property, facilities and services."
It has been reported by doctors in the know in the medical community
that the SMC plans to build a new RM50 million boutique hospital
near the Sutera Harbour Resort, a stone's throw from the popular
CentrePoint Sabah Shopping Complex near downtown Kota Kinabalu,
should the sale of its Luyang premises go ahead.
The SMC premises in Luyang was built for RM150 million and a figure
of RM400 million has been conservatively mentioned for the purchase
of the property, facilities and services including the cost of
turning it from a five-star private hospital into the open ward
system of government hospitals.
To build an entirely brand new conventional government hospital an
outdated concept with the emergence of dedicated centres of medical
excellence - would cost up to RM1 million per bed including the
facilities that go with it, according to Dr Anil Kumar Kukreja, a
former acting state health director.
The SMC shifted into its present premises after disposing its old
premises in Likas for RM150 million to the ministry which has since
turned it into the Likas Women's Hospital. The Likas property was
built during the time of chief minister Harris Salleh (1976-85) for
RM5 million, according to public records. (by Joe Fernandez)