Island hospital, a medical tourism powerhouse
29 Oct 2023
While it is going to get busy in the long run completing its Island Medical City project in the next five to 10 years, Island Hospital expects to close 2023 treating 200,000 patients and anticipates a 50 per cent revenue growth to above RM600 million compared to last year.
The private hospital, which is located in Georgetown, Penang, has started to see a number of patients return to pre-pandemic levels, according to chief of staff Lim Kooi Ling.
“We have reached close to 90,000 patients in the first half of the year and we are confident that we can finish this year with 200,000 patients with half of them being health travellers from more than 60 countries, namely Indonesia, Singapore and countries from the Middle East,” she told Bernama.
Lim shared that in 2019, Island Hospital had close to 170,000 patients but during COVID-19 with the border lockdown and travel restrictions, the number of patients dwindled.
With that now over, this hospital is getting busier than ever, which is also in line with the Penang state government’s vision towards making the state the city for medical tourism in Malaysia.
According to data from the Malaysia Health Travel Council, when the borders reopened post-COVID-19, close to 300,000 (295,367) health travellers visited Malaysia to seek medical treatment and 31 per cent of this number (the patients) received their treatment at Island Hospital.
The hospital has been recognised through various external parties and this year, it has been recognised by Newsweek as the Best Specialised Hospital in Asia Pacific.
“We are also recognised by Global Health Asia Pacific Awards for Value-Based Hospital, Smart Hospital, Health Screening Service Provider and Diagnostic Imaging Centre.
“For many of the important services that we have, I think we are proud to be called the ‘smart hospital’, she shared.
Holistic medical tourism infrastructure
Lim noted that the hospital has a 50:50 ratio between foreign patients, or “health travellers”, and local patients.
Realising the significant number of health travellers, Island Hospital has a dedicated international patient service and dedicated international patient service centre, whereby it would conduct end-to-end logistics and assistance for the patients to help them before they come to the hospital.
“We also offer a significant cost advantage, not only versus other countries like medical tourism hospitals, for example in Singapore, but also versus hospitals in Kuala Lumpur.
“Besides, our patients and their families have the advantage of good medical care at a reasonable price as well as the tourism element that Penang has to offer,” Lim explained.
She also said that the hospital had to pivot its business strategy during COVID-19 and act accordingly, including chartering about 10 flights to treat selected cases in Medan and Jakarta, Indonesia.
Island Medical City
Moving forward, the hospital envisioned taking the Island Hospital brand and reputation as a medical tourism hospital and to further take it to the next level, thus giving it the international standard integrated medical hub.
“We are planning to have facilities not only for this new hospital (Phase 1) but additional hospital components to achieve a total of 1,000 hospital beds … we also have in our approved planning 318 medical suites.
“On top of that, we are very much here to serve our local patients first and foremost and also our health travellers. Therefore, there is also an approved hotel component built specifically for our patient’s family members.
“And with that, we believe that this medical hub will be almost like a one-stop centre for medical tourism,” she emphasised.
Lim noted that Phase 1 and 2 of the construction have been completed and the hospital will begin constructing Phase 3 next year, pending clearance from the Ministry of Health.
“We have this land bank and we have this ability for this brownfield expansion which all in all will be close to two million square feet of space. It will definitely be something that will keep us busy for the next five to 10 years.
“With our new facilities to complement our existing hospital facilities, we have been able to grow our market share.
“That is a sign that this concept of Island Medical City is something that we are able to translate into reality,” she said, adding that the gross development value for the whole project is more than RM2 billion.
Currently, its market share is 32 per cent in Malaysia and 52 per cent in Penang.
Island Hospital also spent RM30 million in training its staff.
Comfort at the core
This hospital, which was founded in 1996, carried the tagline “To Comfort Always” and started operations with a 600-bed capacity, making it one of the largest private hospitals in Malaysia that provides tertiary as well as quaternary medical services.
It has 14 operating theatres, 14 intensive care unit beds and more than 80 full-time doctors.
It has five core specialties; orthopaedics, surgery, oncology, gastroenterology and cardiac.
After almost 30 years in the healthcare industry, Island Hospital is one of the four finalists of the flagship programme initiated by the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC).
The programme is a government initiative aimed at raising Malaysia’s global healthcare profile to elevate Malaysia’s private healthcare services.
Lim expressed her optimism about championing the programme, given the hospital’s track record and success stories.
“We have been treating more than 1.5 million patients over the years, which is bigger than the population of Penang,” she concluded.