Ipoh’s Home Grown BPHG

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By SeeFoon Chan-Koppen

Ipoh’s Home Grown BPHG

What began as a small lab inside Perak Community Specialist Hospital PCSH (in those days known as the Perak Chinese Maternity Hospital PCMH) in 1982 has blossomed into a national chain of primary care centres that is now the largest employer of medical doctors outside of the government and the largest chain of laboratories and diagnostic centres in S.E. Asia.

Home grown BP Healthcare Group is proud of its Ipoh small town origins. Now a conglomerate with 44 labs and 30 Diagnostic centres spread throughout east and west Malaysia the group is looking forward to the opening of its new headquarters in Glenmarie, Shah Alam, Selangor. This new building has collaboration with the International Medical University, the opening of these facilities will provide the university’s medical students with a hands-on training facility and will soon see BPHG becoming a big player in the medical arena.

Founder Dato’ Beh Chun Chuan is surprisingly modest about the group’s growth and achievements, waving aside any attempts on this writer’s part to shower him with accolades, preferring instead to defer to his son Chevy to whom he deflected most questions.

Humble Beginnings

He was forthcoming on the historical details though, revealing that as a medical microbiologist he had his first laboratory in the Perak Chinese Maternity Hospital, working closely with its hospital Chairman, the late Tan Sri Dato’ Lee Loy Sing, one of the primary supporters since its founding. PCSH’s mission originally was to provide low-cost medical services to the lower income classes in Perak as well as doing ‘charity’ in providing charitable medical services as a non-profit institution. The Beh Hin Mei building named in honour of his father in PCSH on Kampar Road, was donated by Dato’ Beh to house nine resident clinics as well as the laboratory and radiology centre which he initiated. From these humble beginnings, the BPHG empire has grown exponentially, fuelled by patient demands for affordable primary healthcare.

One Stop Health Checks

Elaborating on the concept of primary healthcare, Dato Beh summed it up with, “Most people don’t know what that means so I tell them, we have one-stop health checks! We cater primarily to healthy people who come in for their wellness diagnostic tests. And we have resident physicians who give advice to the patients on the results and make recommendations and prescribe medicines when necessary. When we detect any condition requiring surgery or outside of our primary health scope, we refer them to other specialists and hospitals”. Using the analogy of hypermarkets and convenience stores, Dato Beh likens his BP diagnostic centres to the 7Eleven’s of healthcare while the hospitals are the Giants or Tescos.

Operating mainly as a laboratory since 1982, BPHG opened its full fledged Diagnostic Centre in 2004 and has not looked back since. Today, BP Diagnostic Centres will provide all the medical services an average person may require except for operations and hospitalisation. This includes radio-imaging and many other diagnostic facilities and services. They were the first local laboratory chain to be accredited with ISO 15189, an achievement of which Beh senior is justifiably proud. This accreditation assures them fully capable of performing 6 major laboratory scopes with 135 test parameters making BP Clinical lab the chain offering the widest range of recognised tests in the country.

When asked if they represent a competitive threat to existing pharmacies, clinics and even the hospitals, Dato’ Beh said, “We do not claim to provide the extensive services of a full-fledged hospital but we do provide a quick and easy service to the stand-alone clinics and doctors in private practice. And patients can come to us consult our specialists and medical officers after the medical health screening examination”.

Lower Costs for Consumer

In a comparison chart flyer of the services offered by BP versus independent labs, hospitals and GP clinics, BP came thumbs up on 39 services offered, with hospitals coming in a close second. They claim a turn-around time of 1-2 days for test results and their non-hospital setting results in personalised attention, more efficient service, a cosier more comfortable environment and a minimum risk of contracting infectious diseases especially in times of epidemics such as the recent H1N1 alert. Their doctors who are permanently based in the respective centres are specially trained in performing diagnostic tests, health screening and consultation. Their number of centres and bulk purchasing of drugs, equipment and test kits, as well as staff trained to multi-task, result in lower operating costs which are passed on to the consumer.