The B2B team has the chance to sit down with the brains behind one of the most ambitious medical infrastructure developments in Cambodia, the soon-to-be-finished Sunrise Japan Hospital. We talk to Yoshifumi Hayashi (MD), Clinical & Management Director of Sunrise Japan Hospital, and Toshiaki Fukuda, Chairman of Sunrise Japan Hospital -the company that owns the hospital.
Opening early next year at Chrouy Changva, the Sunrise Japan Hospital will provide first-class medical services through a team of experienced Japanese doctors, nurses and related medical staff. The new facility will also provide training to local medical professionals, with the overall objective of raising the bar when it comes to quality of service in the Cambodian medical industry.
B2B: When are you planning to open the Sunrise Japan Hospital?
Hayashi: Possibly by end of May next year, but it could take a little longer, depending on whatever or not we manage to keep up with the construction schedule.
B2B: How are you finding the process of setting up a hospital? What are some of the difficulties?
Hayashi: Naturally, to build a hospital in a foreign country is a challenging experience. We face a myriad of problems on a daily basis. The aim of the whole project is to give people a high-quality medical service, so of course the skill and knowledge of our Japanese staff is very important. However, we must not underestimate the importance of having properly trained, competent local staff. We’ve been going through the process of training locals, and it has proven to be quite different from what we expected. For example, now about 30 of our Cambodian medical staff are being trained in Japan. This includes doctors, nurses and other medical professionals. We hoped to start off their training with university-level lectures in technical subjects, but the actual situation is that we need to train them first in more basic skills.
B2B: Are you talking about soft skills?
Hayashi: Yes, before we teach medicine-related subjects, we found a need to instruct them on professional etiquette and on how to politely interact with customers: If you have a problem you need to consult with your supervisor, you need to be punctual in the workplace, etc. All in all, it will take 2 or 3 months longer than we expected in the beginning. The training started in May this year. Six months have passed, and half of the nurses came back last week. We will start training them here next week. Some of these nurses already possess the basic skills and knowledge they need to work in the sector, so we are very happy.
B2B: How easy was it to find Khmer staff for your hospital?
Fukuda: We posted a job announcement on an online portal and the response was overwhelming. A lot of medical professionals applied to the position. It granted us the opportunity to choose among a sizable pool of qualified applicants. For 10 positions we received over 400 applications. In Japan the situation is quite different. Due to the large number of hospital, it is often very hard to find applicants.
Hayashi: We also resorted to the local medical school hoping to recruit staff. We got over 1,000 applications from their students.
B2B: Why did you decide to open a hospital in Cambodia?
Fukuda: The project started in 2008. At that time, the economy was at a low point, but we foresaw its recovery. It was a time —still is— when many people were going abroad in search of medical care: we saw the opportunity and seized it. Another factor was our desire to bring better quality standards into the Cambodian medical industry. Japan already has world class medical services and facilities, so opening another hospital there was not an estimulating idea. Cambodia, on the other hand, is a different story altogether.
B2B: Do you plan to replace or compete with Bangkok as a destination for medical tourism?
Fukuda:Yes, we hope so.
Hayashi: We hope to compete with the likes of Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City and Singapore.
B2B: So, your hospital will be on the level of the best hospitals in Bangkok or Ho Chi Minh?
B2B: How can you guarantee that standard?
Fukuda: To begin with, our hospital will not just provide a one-time service. Many people are going to Bangkok to get surgery. While the surgical treatment might be satisfactory, the postoperative surgical care is oftentimes very deficient, if existent at all. Postoperative care is often neglected because patients rush out of the country —they have a flight to catch.
B2B: Do you think the hospital scene here in Cambodia is quite saturated?
Hayashi: I think there is still a lot of potential and space for new ventures. The Cambodian economy is burgeoning. We already have some big private players, but there is room for a lot more.
B2B: Do you think Cambodians care more and more about their health?
Fukuda: Yes, I think so. Everyday, more and more Cambodians decide to take on a sport. Physical exercise as a way of improving one’s health is becoming more popular among the local population. This undoubtedly points to heightened interest on health issues. However, there are other pointers that indicate that they are not quite there yet. For example, we regularly hold health seminars in which we aim to educate locals on chronic diseases and other health-related issues. Attendance to these workshops and lectures is a lot lower than what we would see in Japan.
B2B: How do you hope to improve the medical industry here?
Fukuda: Now locals don’t trust Cambodian hospitals or Cambodian doctors. If our hospital is able to provide a quality service, then perhaps we can reverse that situation. Half of our employees are Japanese, and the other half is Cambodian. When people come to our hospital and are attended by well-trained, professional local staff, their perception will change, and they will gain trust in the local medical workforce. We are creating a strong team of capable local medical professionals. We want them to stay with us for as long as possible, but eventually some of them will move on to establish clinics and hospitals of their own, bringing with them the good practices and standards that they learnt at Sunrise and spreading them around the country.
B2B: From a business point of view, what are the advantages of starting something in the medical field in Cambodia?
Hayashi: One of the reasons we chose Cambodia is that here hospitals can be owned entirely by foreigners. Also, we can use the our medical licenses from back home. Due to an agreement between the Cambodian and the Japanese government, Japanese doctors can practice here with a Japanese license; there is no need for them to pass local examinations. This made getting off the ground a lot simpler.