29 June 2007

Hospitals: Seek world-class recognition


OVER the past few days, there have been two reports of apparent medical negligence in our hospitals.

There was the case of a woman who claimed that a surgeon had left a 32cm tube in her abdomen during a renal operation done three years ago at the Alor Star Hospital.

Then there was the case of a baby who was badly cut on the back of the head during a Caesarean operation carried out at a hospital in Negri Sembilan three months ago.

Over the past few years, many such incidents have been reported and they reflect poorly on our hospitals.

To a certain extent, these incidents, especially if reported overseas, could have an adverse effect on Malaysia’s ambition to be a major player in the medical tourism market — where there is significant competition from Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines and India.
A recent report by a news agency said that medical tourism in Asia is big business and is expected to grow to US$4 billion (about RM14 billion) in 2012.

The report said that Singapore wants to attract one million foreign patients by 2012 and that Bangkok aims to attract two million foreign patients by 2010.

In this regard, it is puzzling why there is no hospital (government or private) in Ma-laysia that is accredited by an internationally-recognised accrediting organisation like the Joint Commission International (JCI).

The JCI website shows that India has six JCI-accredited hospitals.

The Philippines and Thailand each have two JCI-accredited hospitals and Singapore has 10 such hospitals (including major government and private hospitals).

There are also a number of JCI-accredited hospitals in the Persian Gulf states.

JCI is an independent organisation which evaluates a hospital’s standard, quality, staff, equipment and patient care.

A hospital with such an international accreditation would have a significant competitive edge in attracting medical tourists from both developed and developing countries as there is an assurance of certain standards being maintained.

This is reinforced if such accreditation is done periodically to ensure that there is no slippage in standards.

It would also be a welcome reassurance to Malaysians when seeking medical treatment to know that Malaysian hospitals are internationally accredited.

If Malaysia wants to be a serious player in the medical tourism market, it has to seize every competitive advantage that it can get.

Our government and private hospitals should strive to attain this international accreditation in order to become major players in the healthcare industry.

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