Ambitious growth with special health care services

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JPMC photo
JPMC’s Executive Director and Medical Director Dato Dr Isham Jaafar (center) with Inside Investor’s Business Development Manager Chase Anderson (left) and Senior Accounts Executive and Sara García Arjona

The Jerudong Park Medical Centre (JPMC) is a private specialist hospital in Brunei Darussalam. It offers general, specialised and surgical healthcare services. Since its foundation in 1992, the hospital has undergone significant development in expanding services and improving facilities. Inside Investor asked Executive Director and Medical Director Dato Dr Isham Jaafar about JPMC’s journey and its potential in medical tourism.

Q: Please provide an overview of how you have overcome hurdles. Given your vision, what stands in the way of the progress of JPMC?

A: JPMC is a private hospital with about 110 beds all in all together with Gleneagles JPMC. When it started, it was more of an outpatient department, together with obstetrics and pediatrics departments. We had some general surgical services provided by visiting consultant from RIPAS Hospital and visiting orthopedic surgeons from Singapore. When I started the job about three and a half years ago, the idea was to turn this into a specialist hospital. At that point, we knew we needed to improve on stroke patient management. With the approval of His Majesty’s government, we collaborated with the Nordwest Hospital from Germany. We introduced high- end treatment for acute stroke, where acute thrombolysis is done within four and a half hours to improve the outcome. This has been going on, and since we had started from zero, building it up was a challenge as we needed to set it up within 3 months. The first limiting factor was human resources; we didn’t have enough nurses, doctors and other professionals, so we had to recruit most of them from abroad. A few of our doctors are from Germany. During that time, we also recruited nurses from Malaysia, Philippines, India and Indonesia. The Ministry of Health sent some of their doctors here through our collaboration with them.

Q: How long does a rotation last?

A: Previously, it was about a few months, but now it is more permanent, with two senior residents and one specialist here. The German colleagues have slowly been decreasing in numbers. The other challenge is that our nurses come from different backgrounds. Stroke management varies from one country to another, so we sent them to Germany for almost two months of training. We did that in two batches to help smoothing things.

Q: What percentage of your staff is Bruneian?

A: Currently, the staff is about 55 per cent Bruneian.

Q: Are you looking to raise this percentage?

A: Yes. However, many local nurses still prefer to work with governmental institutions. I think the general mentality is that the government is a secure place. That’s a real challenge for us, which is also prevalent in other departments besides nursing. But those who do come here see it as not only a job, but as a career advancement. We encourage them to develop, to progress, and we send them to courses or on conferences. As for the doctors, we have to wait a while for those who are keen or interested in the position. Currently, we’re under the guidance of our senior German colleagues.

Q: Where do you get your recommendations for doctors?

A: We interview them ourselves. Of course, they need to be registered with the government ‘s medical board, which screens their degree in medicine, since degrees from certain countries are not recognised in Brunei. Procurement is also a challenge. Being a small country, not many companies have their set up in Brunei yet. That can be a big challenge. However, we have a fantastic and supportive chairman. Things run very smoothly with his backup and with that of the Brunei Investment Agency. They realised that our hospital serves national needs as well, not just private.  With this effort we should be able to realise the visions of His Majesty in providing excellent health care to all.

Jerudong Park Medical Center
Jerudong Park Medical Centre, Brunei

Q: In addition to your broad spectrum of services and specialisations, what other sectors are you trying to reach out to?

A: What we’re doing is to see what we can reach to complement the Ministry of Health.  For example, the cancer center was brought here to provide the best tertiary care. Back pain is also quite common and often ignored, even by health professionals. There’s no survey or documented evidence saying how many hours of work or how much pay is lost because of it, but we believe that it’s a lot. Since it’s often ignored, we are working closely with University of Michigan, one of the renowned centers in the world to improve the situations. They came here a few times and introduced certain things, like training local physiotherapists, protocol and others.

Q: What’s the progress of your expansion?

A: Now, we also have a lack of space, but will have more once the new cancer center building has been set up.  With that we will be able to expand the services and human resource further.

Q: Are there other recognised medical centers that you are looking to collaborate with?

A: Not at the moment, but what we are trying to do now is to consolidate what we have and improve on it further before embarking another projects.  For example, the stroke patient management took us sometime to establish and improve it. For us to develop, we had to pay attention to little things, like logistics. It’s now running automatically and smoothly with the effort from everyone involved.

Q: When is the cancer center scheduled for opening?

A: It should be ready in about two years.  It will provide cancer and stroke patients with more beds to accommodate with the latest technologist and equipment to provide the best care possible.  The cancer center and the stroke center are run independently. At the moment, what we’re trying to improve is our obstetric and pediatric services. We’re trying to build it up further this year and regain its momentum.

Q: What about other countries: Are you marketing your medical services abroad?

A: We don’t market aggressively for one simple reason: beds space. It is very limited, and priorities are to be given to local patients.

Q: What’s the main driver for growth at the hospital?

A: It’s a combination of a few things. Awareness is one. For the last 12 years, we have been trying to make the public more aware about the symptoms and signs of stroke. Most of the time, stroke patients with weakness or slurring of speech seek traditional medicine first before coming to the hospital. Now, not only are we trying to teach them the symptoms and signs of stroke, but to come visit us within four and a half hours maximum. Within that time window, we can hopefully reverse the effects of thrombolysis.

Q: What are you doing to raise awareness?

A: This year we are trying to go to secondary schools. Young children usually have greater  influence on their parents. We already have some parents being forced by their children to come to the hospital.

Q: Do you have recurring cases?

A: We don’t see that many recurrences. Obviously, those who sought late treatment and need long term rehab come here regularly. All the rooms here face the ocean, which creates an ambience that helps with the rehab. We are also producing leaflets for the public. Not only that, we are also educating all our staff from nurses to engineers and to domestic helpers to understand healthy living to general.

Q: What do you think will be the status of JPMC in 10 years?

A: In 10 years, especially with the new building, I strongly believe that we will be one of the major players in the ASEAN region for medical tourism. At the moment, we are in the accreditation process with the Joint Commission International. The accreditation should boost our image, not only in terms of tourism, but also to insure the patients that they are in a safe place.

 

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Reading Time: 5 minutes

JPMC’s Executive Director and Medical Director Dato Dr Isham Jaafar (center) with Inside Investor’s Business Development Manager Chase Anderson (left) and Senior Accounts Executive and Sara García Arjona

The Jerudong Park Medical Centre (JPMC) is a private specialist hospital in Brunei Darussalam. It offers general, specialised and surgical healthcare services. Since its foundation in 1992, the hospital has undergone significant development in expanding services and improving facilities. Inside Investor asked Executive Director and Medical Director Dato Dr Isham Jaafar about JPMC’s journey and its potential in medical tourism.

Reading Time: 5 minutes

JPMC photo
JPMC’s Executive Director and Medical Director Dato Dr Isham Jaafar (center) with Inside Investor’s Business Development Manager Chase Anderson (left) and Senior Accounts Executive and Sara García Arjona

The Jerudong Park Medical Centre (JPMC) is a private specialist hospital in Brunei Darussalam. It offers general, specialised and surgical healthcare services. Since its foundation in 1992, the hospital has undergone significant development in expanding services and improving facilities. Inside Investor asked Executive Director and Medical Director Dato Dr Isham Jaafar about JPMC’s journey and its potential in medical tourism.

Q: Please provide an overview of how you have overcome hurdles. Given your vision, what stands in the way of the progress of JPMC?

A: JPMC is a private hospital with about 110 beds all in all together with Gleneagles JPMC. When it started, it was more of an outpatient department, together with obstetrics and pediatrics departments. We had some general surgical services provided by visiting consultant from RIPAS Hospital and visiting orthopedic surgeons from Singapore. When I started the job about three and a half years ago, the idea was to turn this into a specialist hospital. At that point, we knew we needed to improve on stroke patient management. With the approval of His Majesty’s government, we collaborated with the Nordwest Hospital from Germany. We introduced high- end treatment for acute stroke, where acute thrombolysis is done within four and a half hours to improve the outcome. This has been going on, and since we had started from zero, building it up was a challenge as we needed to set it up within 3 months. The first limiting factor was human resources; we didn’t have enough nurses, doctors and other professionals, so we had to recruit most of them from abroad. A few of our doctors are from Germany. During that time, we also recruited nurses from Malaysia, Philippines, India and Indonesia. The Ministry of Health sent some of their doctors here through our collaboration with them.

Q: How long does a rotation last?

A: Previously, it was about a few months, but now it is more permanent, with two senior residents and one specialist here. The German colleagues have slowly been decreasing in numbers. The other challenge is that our nurses come from different backgrounds. Stroke management varies from one country to another, so we sent them to Germany for almost two months of training. We did that in two batches to help smoothing things.

Q: What percentage of your staff is Bruneian?

A: Currently, the staff is about 55 per cent Bruneian.

Q: Are you looking to raise this percentage?

A: Yes. However, many local nurses still prefer to work with governmental institutions. I think the general mentality is that the government is a secure place. That’s a real challenge for us, which is also prevalent in other departments besides nursing. But those who do come here see it as not only a job, but as a career advancement. We encourage them to develop, to progress, and we send them to courses or on conferences. As for the doctors, we have to wait a while for those who are keen or interested in the position. Currently, we’re under the guidance of our senior German colleagues.

Q: Where do you get your recommendations for doctors?

A: We interview them ourselves. Of course, they need to be registered with the government ‘s medical board, which screens their degree in medicine, since degrees from certain countries are not recognised in Brunei. Procurement is also a challenge. Being a small country, not many companies have their set up in Brunei yet. That can be a big challenge. However, we have a fantastic and supportive chairman. Things run very smoothly with his backup and with that of the Brunei Investment Agency. They realised that our hospital serves national needs as well, not just private.  With this effort we should be able to realise the visions of His Majesty in providing excellent health care to all.

Jerudong Park Medical Center
Jerudong Park Medical Centre, Brunei

Q: In addition to your broad spectrum of services and specialisations, what other sectors are you trying to reach out to?

A: What we’re doing is to see what we can reach to complement the Ministry of Health.  For example, the cancer center was brought here to provide the best tertiary care. Back pain is also quite common and often ignored, even by health professionals. There’s no survey or documented evidence saying how many hours of work or how much pay is lost because of it, but we believe that it’s a lot. Since it’s often ignored, we are working closely with University of Michigan, one of the renowned centers in the world to improve the situations. They came here a few times and introduced certain things, like training local physiotherapists, protocol and others.

Q: What’s the progress of your expansion?

A: Now, we also have a lack of space, but will have more once the new cancer center building has been set up.  With that we will be able to expand the services and human resource further.

Q: Are there other recognised medical centers that you are looking to collaborate with?

A: Not at the moment, but what we are trying to do now is to consolidate what we have and improve on it further before embarking another projects.  For example, the stroke patient management took us sometime to establish and improve it. For us to develop, we had to pay attention to little things, like logistics. It’s now running automatically and smoothly with the effort from everyone involved.

Q: When is the cancer center scheduled for opening?

A: It should be ready in about two years.  It will provide cancer and stroke patients with more beds to accommodate with the latest technologist and equipment to provide the best care possible.  The cancer center and the stroke center are run independently. At the moment, what we’re trying to improve is our obstetric and pediatric services. We’re trying to build it up further this year and regain its momentum.

Q: What about other countries: Are you marketing your medical services abroad?

A: We don’t market aggressively for one simple reason: beds space. It is very limited, and priorities are to be given to local patients.

Q: What’s the main driver for growth at the hospital?

A: It’s a combination of a few things. Awareness is one. For the last 12 years, we have been trying to make the public more aware about the symptoms and signs of stroke. Most of the time, stroke patients with weakness or slurring of speech seek traditional medicine first before coming to the hospital. Now, not only are we trying to teach them the symptoms and signs of stroke, but to come visit us within four and a half hours maximum. Within that time window, we can hopefully reverse the effects of thrombolysis.

Q: What are you doing to raise awareness?

A: This year we are trying to go to secondary schools. Young children usually have greater  influence on their parents. We already have some parents being forced by their children to come to the hospital.

Q: Do you have recurring cases?

A: We don’t see that many recurrences. Obviously, those who sought late treatment and need long term rehab come here regularly. All the rooms here face the ocean, which creates an ambience that helps with the rehab. We are also producing leaflets for the public. Not only that, we are also educating all our staff from nurses to engineers and to domestic helpers to understand healthy living to general.

Q: What do you think will be the status of JPMC in 10 years?

A: In 10 years, especially with the new building, I strongly believe that we will be one of the major players in the ASEAN region for medical tourism. At the moment, we are in the accreditation process with the Joint Commission International. The accreditation should boost our image, not only in terms of tourism, but also to insure the patients that they are in a safe place.

 

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