TAKE TO HEART

The Peak (Malaysia) - - Contents -

Dato Aliyah Karen, CEO of MAA Medi­care Char­i­ta­ble Foun­da­tion, shares the lat­est on its ded­i­ca­tion to pro­vid­ing health­care for the un­der­priv­i­leged, in­clud­ing the foun­da­tion en­deav­our to set up Asia’s first car­diac di­ag­nos­tic and treat­ment cen­tre.

Dato’ Aliyah Karen, CEO of MAA Medi­care Char­i­ta­ble Foun­da­tion, shares the lat­est on its ded­i­ca­tion to pro­vid­ing health­care ac­cess for the un­der­priv­i­leged, in­clud­ing the foun­da­tion’s en­deav­our to set up Asia’s first car­diac di­ag­nos­tic and treat­ment cen­tre. How did you get in­volved with the MAA Medi­care Char­i­ta­ble Foun­da­tion? The foun­da­tion ac­tu­ally started when a staff of MAA Medi­care couldn’t af­ford dial­y­sis treat­ments be­cause she didn’t qual­ify for gov­ern­ment fa­cil­i­ties, yet was un­able to af­ford pri­vate treat­ment. It was a real dilemma for her and so, the Chair­man of MAA Hold­ings, Tunku Dato’ Yaa­cob Khyra, de­cided that the com­pany would start a dial­y­sis cen­tre to help peo­ple fac­ing the same predica­ment. MAA Medi­care Char­i­ta­ble Foun­da­tion was regis­tered in 1995 and I joined in 1998 as the Gen­eral Man­ager while we were in the midst of set­ting up cen­tres in Jo­hor Bahru and, soon, Kuching as we wanted to ex­pand our ser­vices. I took over as CEO in 2006 and it be­came my full-time baby. There was a time when I wanted to leave but

the Chair­man asked me: “Who am I sup­posed to trust the foun­da­tion with?” I couldn’t an­swer be­cause there was no one I could pass this on to. I stayed but I couldn’t keep do­ing the same things, so I chal­lenged my­self: I want to do some­thing dif­fer­ent ev­ery year, so the team and I set our own goals and tar­gets.

Speak­ing of chal­lenges, what are some that you’ve faced at the foun­da­tion? One of the big­gest ones took place in 2008, when the Pri­vate Health­care Fa­cil­i­ties and Ser­vices (Pri­vate Med­i­cal Clin­ics or Pri­vate Den­tal Clin­ics) Reg­u­la­tions 2006 was en­acted. Any op­er­at­ing clinic (in­clud­ing those run by NGOs) had to ad­here to these reg­u­la­tions. For us, it meant sev­eral mod­i­fi­ca­tions to our cen­tre be­cause of the strict cri­te­ria, in­clud­ing size spec­i­fi­ca­tions for treat­ment ar­eas, walk­ways, etc. This re­quired ad­di­tional work and money – both of which are scarce com­modi­ties – so we de­cided to move 11 out of our 12 cen­tres into new premises. Fi­nances were a point of con­tention be­cause we were not re­ceiv­ing fund­ing from the MAA Group at that point. The com­pany felt that it’s only right to be self-sus­tain­ing and the money can be di­rected to other char­i­ta­ble needs. Ini­tially, that didn’t go down well with me but, on hind­sight, I think the Chair­man def­i­nitely did us a favour be­cause, to­day, we are a self-sus­tain­ing or­gan­i­sa­tion. We don’t de­pend on the com­pany or the gov­ern­ment for money.

How do you keep the foun­da­tion self-sus­tain­ing? It’s all a num­bers game. First, I look at the num­ber of pa­tients we have, con­sol­i­date the fig­ures and look at the vol­ume of things I can buy at a lower price from sup­pli­ers. Our main source of in­come, though, is through the pa­tient fees for the sub­sidised treat­ments and ex­ten­sive fundrais­ing through our 12 cen­tres. We are also very trans­par­ent with what we do with money and help given by donors, sup­pli­ers and spon­sors. We pro­vide a monthly list of pa­tients who re­ceive treat­ment sub­si­dies and the foun­da­tion pub­lishes an­nual re­ports with our fi­nan­cial in­for­ma­tion and ex­actly what we do with funds. This is some­thing that donors re­ally like and it ac­tu­ally gets eas­ier to ask for help af­ter the first time be­cause they know ex­actly where their money goes.

You men­tioned set­ting up goals and tar­gets, one of which hap­pens to be the Car­diac Di­ag­nos­tic and Treat­ment Cen­tre. How did the idea come about? In 2014, our pro­grammes were sta­ble; all cen­tres were li­censed and we were in our 20th year. Hence, the Board de­cided to ex­tend our ser­vices to also cover pa­tients with car­diacre­lated dis­eases. It took us al­most a year to do a fea­si­bil­ity study be­cause it’s a very ex­pen­sive en­deav­our com­pared to kid­ney dis­eases. We’re talk­ing 10 times more for treat­ments and equip­ment, so we needed the ex­act facts and fig­ures. We met with count­less fig­ures from gov­ern­ment, univer­sity and pri­vate hos­pi­tals to un­der­stand the pric­ing sys­tems, pa­tient pro­files and, essen­tially, iden­tify the need for such a cen­tre. What we found out was that there was no other fa­cil­ity pro­vid­ing char­i­ta­ble treat­ments for heart pa­tients in Malaysia. No one re­alised there was this huge group who couldn’t af­ford car­diac treat­ments. Cur­rent car­diac fa­cil­i­ties were not enough and had in­ter­minable wait­ing lists. So, we spoke to the Min­istry of Health and it agreed to di­vert non-crit­i­cal pa­tients for preven­tion and di­ag­nos­tics to us. From there, we got the ball rolling to start this Car­diac and Di­ag­nos­tic Treat­ment Cen­tre.

What’s the progress of the cen­tre? We are in the fi­nal stages right now. There have been some hic­cups, es­pe­cially with the change in gov­ern­ment and new ap­point­ments in the Min­istry of Health. But ev­ery­thing is in place; we have the ma­chines, staff and even a ded­i­cated team of five renowned car­di­ol­o­gists who al­ready vol­un­teer days off from their hos­pi­tals to be here for the pa­tients. Our doors are set to open this month with Prime Min­is­ter Tun Dr Ma­hathir Mo­hamad – who is also an ad­viser to the Car­diac Cen­tre – set to of­fi­ci­ate it in Oc­to­ber.

What drives you in what you do? I’m a very tough per­son! It’s never been a one-woman show for me. When you have 800 pa­tients around the coun­try, you need a good team or you’ll never be suc­cess­ful, and I’m grate­ful for the sup­port from the Board as well. And see­ing the same pa­tients through­out my 20 years here is in­cred­i­bly in­spi­ra­tional. The fact that I see them for years makes me work harder to pro­vide more med­i­cal ser­vices be­cause, with­out treat­ment, they will die. To me, this isn’t char­ity; it is hu­man­ity.

To find out more about the MAA Medi­care Char­i­ta­ble Foun­da­tion’s en­deav­ours or to lend sup­port, call +603 4044 4468 or e-mail fundrais­ing@maamedi­care.org

“TO ME, THIS ISN’T CHAR­ITY; IT IS HU­MAN­ITY.”

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