Off the Cuff - HKL ... our finest institution

21 Jan 2016 / 23:33 H.

    THOSE of us passing along Jalan Pahang and Jalan Tun Razak normally don't think much of one of Kuala Lumpur's oldest landmarks with its common architectural design but if we know of the many millions of people who have benefited from its existence, think again.
    We tend to take it for granted and even the media rarely gives it space in the midst of pursuing perhaps other more interesting stories.
    But if one delves into the history, service record and sheer statistics associated with Kuala Lumpur Hospital, or better known as HKL, one is humbled, like I am, with a sense of guilt even, at our ignorance or lack of recognition.
    This sprawling facility occupying some 150 acres of prime land in the nation's capital, with 83 wards and 2,300 beds is actually the world's largest general hospital.
    Unbelievable as it might seem, HKL is 148 years old this year, which must make it one of the world's oldest hospitals, too.
    I was inspired to write this column on HKL when on several occasions visiting friends, relatives and family members, I observed the selfless dedication of its doctors, nurses and support staff in carrying out their duties seamlessly despite the congestion that one sees in any public hospital in the country.
    HKL is close to my heart, too. Three of my five children were delivered at its maternity wing while the other two were born at another general hospital, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.
    And I used to remind the trio who were born at HKL of their birthplace.
    For sheer statistics that I mentioned earlier, HKL handles over one million outpatients and around 120,000 in-patients a year.
    Just how many staff, you might ask, work under the hospital's roof to handle just about anyone seeking treatment given the fact that a hospital never stops functioning even for a minute?
    Its director, Datuk Dr Zaininah Mohd Zain, I must say, is a woman of steel for she leads some 10,400 staff, including 200 consultants and specialists, 500 medical officers or registrars, over 250 sisters or ward managers and matrons and more than 3,000 nurses.
    HKL is a classic example of the Malaysian public healthcare system that's rated among the world's best where the Health Ministry spares virtually no effort and expense in its public health delivery system.
    It runs on a budget of over RM1 billion a year. Expansion projects worth RM300 million are also ongoing to provide more space and facilities.
    Zaininah, who has been the hospital's head honcho for the past nine years, told me: "HKL is not just a hospital, it is a brand. She has stood tall for 148 years.
    "Over the years, HKL has given healthcare personnel a golden opportunity to train and gather valuable clinical experience. As a tertiary referral centre, well represented in all disciplines, clinicians have the rare privilege of consulting and learning from some of the best minds in the service."
    I asked her how was it humanly possible to provide such quality service despite its sheer size and large workforce.
    "Because HKL has continued to evolve with the needs of the times, be it for patients or staff, amid very challenging limitations.
    The value system taught by senior clinicians continues to be the foundation for the quality service rendered to patients.
    "I always speak my mind and pay a lot of attention to my staff because I believe in any organisation, people management is the most important priority. My job is to extract that potential by touching their hearts.
    "This legacy will continue into the future. And I must say there's strong understanding and supportive leadership at both the clinical and administrative levels which facilitates this growth," said Zaininah.
    She's very proud that HKL's clinicians have put the hospital on the world map.
    Dr Sri Rao Siva, an HKL's Emergency physician, pays tribute to Zaininah's "wonderful leadership".
    After serving in four hospitals previously, he hopes HKL would be his permanent base because it's very active in every manner and has achieved many "great milestones in its history".
    His colleague, Datin Dr Asmah Johar, a senior consultant dermatologist, says: "It's the hope of so many people in Malaysia. It is their last hope of care for most subspecialty. It's also the best training centre for healthcare personnel."
    Among others, subspecialty refers to general medicine, infectious diseases, respiratory and acute medicine.
    Datuk Dr Anantha Raj Daniel, who heads HKL's frontline Outpatient Department, says the hospital is a great organisation to work for and despite all its complexities, it's the "best institution that has benefited the rakyat".
    Senior consultant psychiatrist Dr Salina Abdul Aziz adds: "HKL is a very unique hospital. It has flourished and matured in many areas."
    She says for this growth to continue, HKL needs brave leaders like Zaininah who are not afraid of making changes.
    As a lay person, I can only add that if the walls of the hospital could talk, there would be an endless outpouring of accolades from patients who have passed through its nook and corner.
    HKL is perhaps the nation's finest public institution whose staff, like their colleagues in other general hospitals across the nation, are our true unsung heroes.
    Think of the tens of thousands of lives saved by these staff and millions who recover from ill-health over the years.

    thesundaily_my Sentifi Top 10 talked about stocks