University hospital’s 99% talent retention in the face of healthcare brain drain | Healthcare Asia Magazine
, Malaysia

University hospital’s 99% talent retention in the face of healthcare brain drain

UMSC offers competitive private practise income to its doctors and educational sponsorships for its nurses. 

The healthcare industry in Malaysia is facing a daunting challenge as more doctors are leaving the country for greener pastures abroad. An INSEAD study found that the Southeast Asian (SEA) nation only has 1.5 physicians per 1,000 people, significantly lower than the global average of 2.6. In response to the brain drain crisis, the UM Specialist Centre (UMSC), a quaternary medical centre, has stepped up its efforts since 1998 to retain the talents for Universiti Malaya. 

According to UMSC CEO Norzaiton Senusi, one of the hospital’s efforts is to offer a place for the doctors in the teaching hospital to practice in UM Specialist Centre. The privatised healthcare industry does offer a platform generating more revenue and benefits. She said the revenue of UMSC has reached RM250m (US$55m) in 2022 of which the average specialist can earn up to RM1m (US$221,788) yearly. This range would still depend on the performance and services of the specialists.

The hospital also offers sponsorships for the talents to further their post basic as well as sponsoring the high school-leavers to further studies in diploma of nursing. The sponsored students will remain employed with UMSC for a designated term. A scholarship for the diploma can cost up to RM40,000 (around US$8,000) for each recipient.   

“It is not 100% but we are about 95% to 99% in terms of our retention strategy, not only for the staff but also for the doctors,” Norzaiton told Healthcare Asia. 

The private healthcare hospital has more than 270 consultants who practise in multi-disciplinary specialties. It also employed more than 500 expert professional staff members composed of nurses, radiographer, pharmacist, medical laboratory technician, and non-clinical talents. 

Robotics surgery department 

Aside from staff retention, UMSC seeks to ensure that its facilities are up to date. This is why it is currently venturing into more cutting-edge technology in a new hospital building. 

This new building will feature treatments such as robotic surgery and high-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU), which are medical processes that use ultrasound waves to treat conditions. 

“We plan to go to even something big for example, like robotic surgery, the HIFU for the oncology patients, proton beam therapy and to treat the uterine fibroids,” said Norzaiton. 

“In summary, we will continuously make improvements to innovate, automate the process, which we can do now and whenever there will be another process with a higher and more aggressive innovation that we will do,” she added.

The robotic surgery will also improve minimally invasive surgical approach as well as reduce manpower needed for surgery. Yale Medicine defines minimally invasive surgical approach as a “type of surgery that involves smaller incisions and shorter recovery time.” 

Before there was a lot of blood loss when performing surgery and it also required several nurses. Now with the help of robots, it will reduce wounds and there will be an improvement in wound management. 

UMSC is not the first medical centre to adopt robotic medical surgery in Malaysia. To be at par with other established private hospitals, the needs to provide advance treatments facilities and services are crucial. UMSC could be the second hospital in Malaysia to start HIFU treatment in the country.  

On the HIFU treatment, Norzaiton said it focuses more on women’s treatments, specifically fertility treatments. HIFU treatment mitigates fertility impact and the risk of complications women may face in typical treatments. Asked about the target date of the new hospital, Norzaiton said the specifications of the project are in the pipeline but they are eyeing to start construction next year. They also project completion by 2026 or 2027, when it will also start the full implementation.

Disclaimer: There has been an oversight in the earlier version of this article so we revised monthly to yearly for the revenue of the average specialist.

RM1 = US$0.22

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