By Priscilla Rajan
Almost 10% of the Malaysian population will be above the age of 60 in the year 2020. Ten years after that, the number is set to increase to 15% when the country will be considered an aging nation. Twenty years beyond that and one in every five people will be above the age of 60. The growing need for aged healthcare is urgent, crucial and expensive. Add to this scenario the elements of increasing life expectancies and the likelihood of contracting diseases, and the scale of this (previously) unmet need grows to staggering proportions.
Work has begun under the Economic Transformation Programme to address this issue in an efficient and cohesive manner.
“In June of last year, PEMANDU, the performance management & delivery unit under the Prime Minister’s Department, managed a seniors living lab with participation from various sectors,” PEMANDU healthcare NKEA director Dr Chua Hong Teck told Business Circle.
“The lab highlighted and demonstrated the need for a holistic approach in dealing with an aging population. From retirement villages and mobile home healthcare to institutional care, there is a need across the board for better skilled personnel, facilities and even laws.”
As a result of the lab, one of its participants, Australia’s Flex Health Group, made the decision to invest in Malaysia and, as a result, is bringing with it more than 20 years of experience and high quality standards in this field.
“We’ve always considered Malaysia to be a good opportunity. We’ve had discussions with AUSTRADE (Australian Trade Commission) and were invited to deliver papers on training and homecare services as well as to participate at the lab organised by PEMANDU,” said Flex Health Group director Jillian Lewis.
“What we were doing in Australia was very similar to the work that is required in Malaysia. We saw the synergy and made the decision to invest and expand our capabilities.”
Together with Flex Health Group director Paul Rowell, they set up My Flex Health in Malaysia at the end of last year. Speaking at the recent opening of its Malaysian office in Kuala Lumpur, Rowell said that the company would focus its efforts on four areas: nurse bureau, training, home care and network.
“The bureau would supply registered nurses to the greater Kuala Lumpur area; the training arm will look at training and up-skilling and the home care will take on a holistic approach. Through this, we will build a network of services for the aged with access to information, training and advice,” he told Business Circle.
The demographic of Australia when it comes to an aging population is very similar to that of Malaysia. According to Leading Age Services CEO Patrick Reid, by 2042, one in four Australians will be over the age of 65 and two million people will be more than 85 by 2050.
“There is a future in caring for the aged and, furthermore, caring for elderly people is a fulfilling profession. We find that employee retention in aged care is high. We also need to remember that their needs now and in five to ten years’ down the road will change – and so will skills,” said Reid.
Raising standards and maintaining them at the highest standards is very important as needs increase and more options become available.
With an initial investment of AUD500,000 (RM1.49 million) and support from the Flex Health offices in Australia, the Malaysian wing has begun training nurses and running workshops.
“The workshops allow us to focus on the needs of elderly Malaysians,” said Lewis. “We want to deliver training and care that is suited to local requirements but that come with high Australian standards.”
“We will also be supported by the Australian team in terms of business development, online up-skilling, IT systems ad well as training and monitoring,” added Rowell.
My Flex Health is also looking to expand to other parts of the country in the near future and regionally in the longer term.
“Our offices in Australia and Malaysia will work in tandem with each other and we are hoping to expand further into South East Asia with Kuala Lumpur serving as our regional hub,” said Lewis.
“We are a mature organisation and have a strong team that will work together to bring the best standards and practises to the region. We are passionate of our mission and hope to make a difference while touching lives along the way,” added Lewis.