Sources told Daily Express that KPJ Healthcare Berhad, a leading Malaysian private healthcare service provider, had made a proposal for KPJ Sabah Specialist Hospital to the Federal Ministry of Health last September. KPJ Sabah Specialist Hospital, which began operations at the end of last year, has 245 beds and is equipped with state-of-the-art healthcare facilities.
According to the sources, the deal is said to be RM1.3 million to RM1.34 million per bed with its accompanying treatment facilities and services as well as utilities.
It is believed that two upcoming private hospitals in Kota Kinabalu has prompted the decision, given the anticipated stiff competition.
It is not easy to get consultant specialists from the Peninsula to come and serve in Sabah unless you offer them exceptionally high salaries.
You need a host of specialists to cover a wide range of specialties and sub-specialties.
"However, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam was not very keen for the Government to make the purchase at that point in time.
"In weighing the pros and cons, he felt that the Sabah State capital alone already had three major hospitals (QEH I, QEH II and Sabah Women and Children's Hospital incorporating the Nuclear Medicine, Radiotherapy & Oncology Centre) plus the smaller Hospital Bahagia (in Bukit Padang, KK) and there was no necessity to add a fifth hospital.
"Furthermore, buying a new hospital is one thing, and recruiting the human resources is another which also incurs costs," the sources said.
In 2009, the Sabah Medical Centre (SMC) in Luyang, now renamed Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) II, was purchased for RM280 million with an additional RM90 million earmarked for refurbishment and renovation.
The older QEH building along Jalan Penampang is now called QEH I.
But one point of contention is that buying over the KPJ Sabah Specialist Hospital would save costs in the long run as eventually there might no longer be any more need to send Sabah patients to KL for treatment if KPJ Sabah Specialist Hospital equates General Hospital Kuala Lumpur (GHKL) in terms of facilities and services.
It is understood that KPJ Healthcare Berhad is pursuing the matter with the Health Minister.
One local doctor commented: "The proposed sale is inevitable and a matter of time. A private hospital and a public hospital cannot be located too close to each other."
But other doctors argued that a bigger issue would be the foreseeable migration of doctors from government hospitals to the private sector, given the coming up of Gleneagles Medical Centre (beside Sutera Harbour Resort) and Jesselton Medical Centre at Metro Town (off Lintas Ring Road). The emergence of new private hospitals in Sabah would mean that government doctors would be lured by being offered higher pay and attractive working conditions.
"This is not newÉprivate hospitals have been pinching doctors from government hospitals over the years.
We have lost a few specialists and sub-specialists. Some have already joined KPJ Sabah Specialist Hospital," lamented a hospital director.
A specialist, who has since left Sabah to go into private practice in the peninsula, expressed his frustration over a non-conducive working environment.