Andorra redefines what a hospital should be

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The Andorra Women & Children Hospital in Seri Kembangan, Selangor. The A&E unit is hidden away at the back to provide a calm and welcoming entrance to visitors. – Photo copyright Andorra Women & Children Hospital

THE hospital looks more like a boutique hotel from the front. There is no sign of an ambulance or an accidents and emergency department. When you walk through its doors, you are not greeted with the usual hustle and bustle of a hospital. Instead, there are lovely ladies with welcoming smiles. You feel like you are in a wellness and aesthetic centre. Upstairs, in the wards, there is no antiseptic smell. The meals look nothing like “hospital food”.

Welcome to Andorra Women & Children Hospital in Seri Kembangan, Selangor. It offers to pamper women and make families feel comfortable. It is the brainchild of obstetrics and gynaecology specialist Dr Khamsiah Muda, who is the chairman and founder.

With more than 25 years’ experience attending to women patients, she is in a good position to know what their needs and wants are. Dr Khamsiah was previously attached to a government hospital then moved on to a private one, all along wanting to implement changes to make hospitals more welcoming to women.

“I finally realised that not until you own a hospital and are in management will you be able to address patients’ rights satisfactorily. I was already 50 and I didn’t see myself retiring at all. So, I asked myself, do I want to work another 20 years without the satisfaction of being able to give my best to my patients? Finally, I decided to start my own hospital,” explains Dr Khamsiah.

The hospital obtained its licence from the Ministry of Health in December, opened its doors the next day and in January, it became fully operational. It could hit the ground running because for a few months prior to admitting its first patient, the team had been working hard on branding and promotions. People were eager to visit the hospital and couldn’t wait for it to open its doors. Since then, it has had patients from Johor, Terengganu, Pahang, Kedah and even from Sarawak. Most of its patients are pregnant women coming in to deliver their babies.

New image of a hospital

Dr Khamsiah believes it is Andorra’s branding as a hospital with something different that has made it attractive to couples.

Chairman and founder Dr Khamsiah Muda wanted to create hospital with positive emotions to promote healing.

“I always wanted to move away from the hospital stigma. I wanted to create a paradigm shift. Hospitals are always associated with negative feelings; it’s a place where people are sick, they are depressed, worried and stressed. Those are the emotions always associated with hospitals.

“I wanted to create a place with positive emotions because the positive aura will promote healing. I asked myself how to do that and I thought of a hotel. Hotels are always associated with vacations. It’s something that people look forward to. It’s time to be spent with the family where they are treated well and served good food,” explains Dr Khamsiah.

A hotel is exactly what Andorra tries to replicate, down to the food and the spa-like ambience. The A&E department is hidden away at the back of the hospital. To ensure the food is delicious yet nutritious, Chef Zubir Zain, TV series Master Chef Malaysia judge, was engaged to design the menu.

The menu is not just for the cafe or the patients. There is also in-room dining where patients can order food for their husbands and children. The items include salmon, pasta and other delicious offerings normally associated with hotels rather than hospitals. The food is not expensive and it is available until 10pm. This makes it easy for patients to feed their whole family instead of worrying how and where to find food.

These are all lovely additions but the priority in any hospital must be its medical staff and facilities. Dr Khamsiah affirms that there is no compromise in this area.

“Safety and quality are our priority. People will not come to our hospital if it’s not safe and if the quality of the service is not top-notch,” says Dr Khamsiah.

Superior service

Apart from having the best doctors who are compassionate and exhibit very good bedside manner, the hospital also ensures it has friendly and compassionate nurses and staff. This is the core of the hospital’s training, apart from clinical skills and knowledge.

When patients are admitted, they are treated to a one-to-one butler service. They are assigned one nurse who will assist them going to the bathroom, bathe them and even give them a massage. Patients will feel pampered and well taken care of, like they would be in a spa.

The hospital also has psychologists and psychiatrists who specialise in women’s mental health. Dr Khamsiah ensures that nothing is taken lightly in Andorra; especially not post-partum depression. Every complaint will be addressed, including those struggling with an unwanted pregnancy or single parenthood.

The hospital encourages breastfeeding and being supportive of a mother’s needs. “We wholeheartedly encourage breastfeeding. We are here to nurture love and relationships so bonding is very important. We have a breastfeeding consultant with 30 years’ experience to address all questions regarding breastfeeding. Her duty is to visit the patients every day and to give talks in the clinic. She is very passionate about breastfeeding. Even after hours, she is available to be consulted at any time over the phone,” says Dr Khamsiah.

In addition, babies are not separated from their mothers at Andorra. According to Dr Khamsiah, the baby is placed in the same room as the mother so the mother can observe what is being done with the baby. Mothers can request for the baby to be put to the breast immediately after birth; their request will be supported by the staff.

The hospital encourages husbands to stay in the room with their wives if it is a private room, so they can comfort the wife if she is scared about going into labour. As for the shared rooms, husbands (and children) have to leave the ward by 10pm.

Responsible

The hospital is also Syariah-friendly. That doesn’t just mean there is a Quran and a prayer mat in the wards. Andorra also adheres to principles, policies and procedures that uphold ethical business practices.

“We have a soft spot for women and children. I think women make a lot of sacrifices. We are expected to be the best daughter, sister, wife and mother. But after all these sacrifices, who really takes into account women’s emotions? I really feel that women are treated so superficially. This hospital is for them, no matter if they are VIPs or not.

“We even have four-bedded rooms because I want everyone to come. This hospital is not for high-status people alone. When they come here, they should feel that they are treated like queens. If you take the four-bedded option, you will receive the same treatment as the patient staying in the VIP room. You will be attended to immediately when you press the bell. The service is the same; just the facilities in the room are different,” says Dr Khamsiah.

With all those services one would expect the fee to be exorbitant. Right now, it is still comparative to other private hospitals. For all that it offers patients, Andorra believes it is definitely value for money.

The future

At the moment, Andorra mainly sees maternity cases but there are plans to turn it into a multi-disciplinary hospital where patients can come for any illness pertaining to women and children. “For a start, we first needed to establish our brand and system, so we chose to start with just 50 beds and three disciplines – O&G, paediatrics and anaesthesiology. Once everything is in place then we will expand to include other disciplines,” explains Dr Khamsiah.

The hospital lacks a blood bank, ICU (intensive care unit) and NICU (neonatal intensive care unit). Realising those inadequacies, the hospital has an MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) with Hospital Serdang, which is just five minutes away. In the event that there is an emergency, the patient will be transferred there.

However, this happens extremely rarely as the patients are managed by medical specialists. According to Dr Khamsiah, specialists anticipate problems. “If we foresee it will be a complicated delivery, we transfer the patient to Serdang Hospital. If we expect the surgery will involve a lot of blood loss, we have to be realistic. We have to tell the patient that it’s not safe for them to have the surgery here. For example, in cancer patients, the surgery might be very long and they would need to be supervised in the ICU after that,” she says.

Although Andorra is not yet a year old, phase two is already being planned. It includes a 200-bed hospital, which will be equipped with an ICU and NICU, and have many other disciplines.