Wagiman Tandun and his wife Elly Norman traveled from Indonesia to seek medical treatment at Sunway Medical Centre (SMC), Sunway City Kuala Lumpur, for Wagimun’s cancer.
During the course of his treatment for over a year in 2020 and 2021, Wagimun was in the care of a renowned Malaysian Haematologist, Dato’ Dr Chang Kian Ming, who specializes in blood cancers.
“It was a difficult time for our family,” shares Wagimun. “However, my wife and I have been shown the utmost kindness and sincerity by the hospitable and capable staff at SMC.”
Wagimun was especially grateful for the members of the International Patient Centre (IPC), who attended to his and his family’s every need – from responding to their questions quickly, to arranging for hospital transfers and facilitating visa extensions.
Venica Nina, Manager at IPC, says her team’s responsibility entails the A to Z of an international patient’s journey in Malaysia, be it transportation from airports, arranging accommodation, acquiring second opinions of medical specialists, assisting in various documentation needed, interpreting languages, providing financial counseling, or even visiting patients during their treatment.
“We are the left and right hands of the patient and their families, we’re on standby 24/7 if necessary,” says Venica. “My happiest memories are when patients recover well.”
Dato’ Lau Beng Long, who is the President of Sunway Healthcare Group, a medical group with several tertiary hospitals and ambulatory and complementary healthcare centres under its wing, says that SMC has been receiving on average more than 40000 international patients visits yearly due its excellence in both patient experience as well as treatment in various subspecialties.
Its flagship SMC hospital in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, has more than 60 subspecialties, many of which are in the area of cancer treatment.
“Sunway Medical Centre has risen to be one of the top two hospitals in Malaysia in procuring health tourists. This is because one of our key Centres of Excellence is anchored in cancer services,” says Lau. “The top treatments sought by foreign tourists are mainly in cancer treatment, blood disease, obstetrics and gynecology, hepatology, orthopedics, and ENT, to name a few.
“Over the next three years, the Group is focusing on developing the services and products in several areas such as Oncology and Hematology, Cardiology, Neurology and Neurosurgery, Orthopedics, Gastrointestinal, Pediatrics, and Robotic services. On top of that, we are also strengthening our quaternary services such as kidney transplant, pediatrics heart surgery, bone marrow transplant, among others.”
SMC’s award-winning Cancer Centre has recently been the focus of attention.
It won the Best Oncology (Radiation) Service Provider and Best Oncology Service Provider for the year 2020 and 2019 respectively by the Global Health and Travel Awards under the Medical Tourism Hospital of the Year in Asia Pacific category, while also winning Nuclear Medicine Service Provider of the Year in 2021, for the Global Health Asia Pacific Award. It is also the Designated Centre of Integrated Oncology & Palliative Care by the European Society for Medical Oncology.
Apart from surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, the Centre also provides other forms of cancer treatment, including targeted therapy, hormone therapy, the groundbreaking immunotherapy, various interventional radiology procedures, targeted radionuclide therapy, and even the tattooless radiation therapy that leaves no permanent or visible marks on the body.
“Sunway Cancer Centre takes a comprehensive approach towards managing cancer – from prevention, to diagnosis and treatment as well as palliative care. It aims to be a one-stop centre to every part of the cancer patient’s journey,” says Dr. Heng Siew Ping, the centre’s General Manager. “Since its launch, the Centre has successfully performed more than 42,000 radiotherapy procedures and treated more than 23,000 chemotherapy patients.”
To ensure patients receive the most ideal treatment plan for the best possible outcome, the SMC Tumour Board convenes weekly to review complex cancer cases. The Board consists of healthcare professionals from multiple specialities, including surgeons, physicians, oncologists, radiologists, haematologists, gynaecologists, medical physicists and pathologists.
The Centre is equipped with cutting-edge technology such as digital PET/CT and SPECT/CT scanners, Radixact-X9 Tomotherapy machine for high-precision and personalised tumour targeting, Leksell Gamma Knife® Icon to treat brain cancers without the need for surgery, and the Varian TrueBeam™ STx to deliver accurate treatment from head to toe.
However, cancer is not the only focus for SMC when it comes to procuring the latest technology in the region.
For example, the hospital is equipped with the Mako SmartRobotics and ROSA® Knee System, in addition to a team of surgeons who are trained to perform robotic total hip and artoplasty surgeries. In fact, SMC made history by being the first hospital in Malaysia to perform such surgeries, with over 200 procedures recorded to date. Today, Sunway Orthopedic Centre has 20 orthopedic surgeons, 7 subspecialties with 10 core services.
Dr. Chua Hwa Sen, the first sole surgeon in Malaysia to achieve his 100th robotic joint surgery with the Mako SmartRobotics system in April 2022, commented, “SMC is the only hospital in Malaysia that offers a complete range of robotic surgeries such as total surgery, partial knee and total hip replacement. In terms of Southeast Asia, we offer the most up-to-date technology similar to that offered by Singapore, but at a lesser cost. Patients undergoing robotic surgery recover faster, experience less pain and 80% of them were able to walk without a cane after two weeks, compared to 20% of patients with conventional surgery.”
Additionally, SMC procured the highly advanced da Vinci Si Surgical System in 2016 and their latest addition, the da Vinci Xi 4th Generation Surgical System, which was the first of its kind in Malaysia when it launched in January 2022. The da Vinci Xi makes complex surgeries simpler, by allowing SMC’s surgeons to perform tiny incisions with enhanced visualisation, precision and control. This results in reduced risk of infections and blood loss while promoting faster recovery times and minimal scarring for patients.
Dato’ Lau believes that SMC will only grow from strength to strength, as the healthcare group’s flagship hospital is now completing three more towers by 2023 to bring its total bed count up to 1100 upon completion, making SMC the biggest private hospital in the country.
With 29 centres of excellence, over 250 specialists, 60 medical specialties and growing, SMC provides a complete range of medical and surgical solutions that international patients look for – a deal sweetened by the fact that the hospital is conveniently located within Sunway City, with public transport situated right at the hospital’s doorstep. Additionally, the Sunway Pyramid shopping mall, Sunway hotels, restaurants, supermarkets, shops and even the Sunway Lagoon theme park are within walking distance.
For the ease of international patients, SMC has developed medical tourism packages such as 3D2N Sunway City and 3D2N Banjaran Retreat Packages to combine health screenings, hotel stays, leisure all in one package.
“Sunway City as an integrated development aims to be a sustainable and livable city model, where people can live, work, learn and play in one place. Sunway Group’s infrastructure of an integrated township provides holistic offerings to foreign tourists where they can seek treatment here hassle-free, with their healthcare, travel, accommodation and leisure needs taken care of under one roof,” adds Lau.
Lau says that this integrated development model has benefited Sunway’s healthcare arm as the Group’s hospitality expertise has translated to a high standard of customer care and concierge services at the hospitals. “We have invested in modernising our façade, enlarging physical spaces of clinical areas, putting up signage of different languages and most importantly, developing a one-stop International Patient Centre that is equipped with medical officers, nurses and interpreters of different languages. All these efforts speak of our commitment to providing a safe haven for foreign patients seeking treatment with us,” he adds. This commitment certainly meant the world to patients like Wagimun.
“We would like to commend you and your team for making my treatment throughout the year a much easier journey, for which I am forever grateful,” writes Wagimun in a letter to Venica. “You have made a big impact on our lives.”