By SeeFoon Chan-Koppen
“I take care of people from ‘womb to tomb’” quips Ahmad Nasirruddin Harun, the affable Senior General Manager of Group Education & Strategic Support Services and Deputy Chairman of KPJ Ipoh Specialist Hospital (ISH) and Chairman of KPJ Penang, Taiping and Manjoi, as we sat sipping tea and nibbling on cheese straws in ISH recently.
Nasir, as he likes to be called, explained that not being a medical professional, his involvement in healthcare began through people’s pockets – in the accounting department – where he began with the KPJ group in Ipoh in 1994 armed with an accounting degree from UiTM and as a member of the Malaysian Institute of Accountants.
An Ipoh boy who grew up living in government quarters in Greentown in the area now occupied by the Greentown Business Centre, Nasir waxes lyrical about his childhood as the youngest of 10 siblings and his growing up years of sharing and caring where each sibling knew their duties and responsibilities and carried them out with nary a quibble or squabble.
“My father was a government servant and his salary was very low. Yet despite his meagre earnings we were fed and well cared for. We walked to school and my after school hours were spent with neighbourhood friends, Malay, Chinese, Indian, Bengali, playing football, flying kites, climbing trees. We had no need for fancy toys or gadgets. We had no race or religious issues. We were all brothers. We’d fight and make up and be friends again,” he reminisced.
“I loved sports. I played hockey, badminton, you name it, I played it and with passion. I was captain for hockey since primary school. Hence with all the time I spent on sports, I was never brilliant in school. Nevertheless after Anderson School, where I was educated, I managed to get my degree in Accountancy and my working career began,” he added.
Imbued with habits, ‘programming’, and values from a happy childhood and enculturated with the ethics of the older generation which he admires, Nasir is all about ‘putting a smile on people’s faces’, a personal philosophy which he espouses both in his personal and professional life.
“We have lost so much of our humanitarian ethics and I try wherever I can within my area of responsibilities to bring this back whether it’s in regard to patients in KPJ hospitals or for the staff who work in them,” he enthused.
“I sit on the board of four hospitals and wherever possible I work at bringing new ideas and innovations to them. During the time I spent in London when KPJ sent me to do a course in Healthcare Management, and later when I was doing my MBA at the Henley School of Management, I picked up many ideas and strategies for improvement especially in the areas of customer service and human resource management, ideas which I have implemented over the years in KPJ Ipoh as well as elsewhere,” he continued.
Some of these innovations can be seen in KPJ Ipoh where Nasir has implemented the ‘Shout Out Board’ a board in the lobby where both patients, their relatives and KPJ staff can write on the board for recommendations, improvements and any other topics which require venting.
Another area that KPJ is venturing into, thanks to Nasir, is in the area of aged care. Nasir is the Director in charge of Jeta Gardens, a retirement home in Queensland, Australia where KPJ has a majority interest. Here he is expanding his expertise in the field of aged care, developing a core of skilled carers who will be in the forefront in providing healthcare and management for senior citizens. A pilot project towards this effort is the setting up of the KPJ medical facility in the newly-opened Meru Eco Village’s Meru Suites in Meru Valley Resort. KPJ plans to develop other retirement or aged care facilities in Malaysia.
As a keen Human Resource development advocate with strategies gleaned from his Henley training, Nasir has been instrumental in spotting and developing talent amongst staff at KPJ Ipoh and elsewhere. The weekend lobby entertainment in the hospital on weekends and special occasions creates a carnival-like atmosphere which helps to lift spirits of patients as they walk through the lobby. With talent culled and encouraged from amongst their staff, it fosters a camaraderie and joie de vivre that is seldom experienced in hospitals elsewhere. With all the credit going to Nasir who is a passionate ‘people person’.
Ipoh Echo wishes him more success with bringing his joie de vivre to more KPJ hospitals around Malaysia.
By SeeFoon Chan-Koppen