Just as low-cost airlines helped broaden access to air travel in South-east Asia, Malaysian entrepreneurs now see a unique opportunity to provide quality health care to all citizens in ASEAN and beyond. One of the most ambitious and far-reaching projects in this sector is the proposed International Medical Campus (IMC) at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA). “This project is envisioned to include a teaching hospital, a medical university, a research institute, a bioscience park for medical device companies and pharmaceutical companies, incubators and medical offices. The project will be the first fully integrated medical development project in the ASEAN region,” said Timor Shah Rafiq, CEO of Dwitasik Medical Development, the master developer of the project. “It will also accelerate the growth of a vibrant biomedical research, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals infrastructure to elevate KL to a sought-after destination for advanced health care.”
Andrew Vallance-Owen, specialist medical advisor at Healthcare UK, believes the concept of an integrated international campus makes a lot of sense for Malaysia. “We have seen similar projects being implemented in education, with a number of UK universities establishing an international campus in Malaysia to serve regional demand,” he said. “Demand for quality research and health care is evidently on the rise. With an appropriate set of policy tools and government support, this project can really take off.”
Vallance-Owen also confirmed that a number of leading hospitals and medical universities based in the UK have shown an interest in the IMC.
In order to realise its vision the IMC will seek to accomplish five key objectives. First, the IMC will mean the establishment of a campus that integrates medical educational programmes, translational research and health care delivery. Second, it will seek to transform health care through the development of patient and family centric, evidence-based medicine. Third, it will introduce innovative research and attract partnerships with pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies in order to foster an environment of creativity, as well as promote links between academia and industry. Fourth, IMC will seek to increase capacity through the education and training of young Malaysian scientists, physicians and health care managers to ensure the long-term sustainability of the project. Addressing skill shortages in the Malaysian health care system in areas such as nursing, physical rehabilitation, and cardiovascular and diabetes medicine will be another key objective. Last, but not least, project developers believe IMC will help grow the local economy by establishing the region’s first major research, health care and bioscience hub, attracting talent from all over the world to come and work at the medical campus. “The University of California San Diego Medical Centre is an example of a facility that has most of the features we are looking for,” said Timor. “They have been successful for over 40 years in developing new medical and health science treatments, products and services.”
Given the current dynamics in health care tourism in ASEAN, Malaysia has a good chance of increasing its market share. The country’s air connectivity and recently-built KLIA 2 airport will play a major role in ensuring patients can afford to travel to Malaysia for treatment. Recognising the potential for non-aviation revenue streams, Malaysia Airports Holding has already allocated some 200 ha of land for the project, and other developers working on the project envision full integration with the Aeropolis concept that is currently being implemented by KLIA.
The main challenge, common to all projects of this size, is finding investors that will adhere to the vision of the project and attracting a renowned university and teaching hospital that can bring their expertise and collaborate with local partners. The government has committed support for the project through various incentives to attract international investors, medical institutions and private companies. Finding the right balance between quality and affordability will be key to unlocking the immense reservoir of regional demand.
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