It was during a medical student conference back in 2012 when Dr. Wan Abdul Hannan Wan Ibadullah and Dr. Lufti Fadil Lokman got the idea for Hospitals Beyond Boundaries (HBB). They visited the slum areas in Mumbai and what caught their attention was a hospital built right in the middle run by the local communities.
This sparked an inspiration in our two medical students who then set up the non-profit organisation dedicated towards improving the health of vulnerable communities through sustainable healthcare efforts. In 2015, HBB opened its very first hospital in Cambodia, focusing on maternal and child health as well as operates as an outpatient clinic and operation for minor lumps and bumps as well as daycare surgery cases.
“The opportunity came when a Cambodian teacher who gave a talk also shared how he was fundraising for a school to be built for the vulnerable communities. With medical knowledge at the back of our minds, we started asking about the medical situation around the vicinity. Turned out that they do need medical help but something that is more sustainable rather than just a one-off thing. After graduating, Lufti and I stayed there for a month and started engaging with the communities, building the ideas on how to make the dream of building a hospital and improving the health of poor people a reality,” explains Dr. Wan Abdul.
There are currently seven staff working at the hospital – two doctors, two midwives, one staff nurse, one accountant and one laboratory technician – all Cambodians. Most come from poor families so aside from providing healthcare to the community it serves, the hospital is also providing jobs and salaries to the staff.
HBB is not running a charity hospital. “Patients pay for the services and treatment, provided that they can afford it. Those who can’t afford it, the profit from every three patients from our hospital will cover the cost for that one patient. This is what we call cross subsidy in which the community themselves help their own people,” Dr. Wan Abdul says.
Apart from the hospital in Cambodia, HBB also runs a mobile clinic in Kuala Lumpur that operates once a month and depends on volunteers. Fortunately, recruiting volunteers is not difficult at all, claims Dr. Wan Abdul. “Most Malaysians love to volunteer. In fact, we even have to decline some of them at times because we cannot cater for a very huge crowd of volunteers,” he says.
What was most challenging in setting up HBB and its hospital? “We started the organisation when we were still medical students! Not even graduated, not even a doctor yet! We were just 24 years old and proposing to build a hospital outside Malaysia? Who would have believed us?” says Dr. Wan Abdul.
Despite these challenges, Dr. Wan Abdul would not have it any other way seeing how far they’ve come. Being recognised by the United Nation was a turning point he says that made them realise the significance of what they are doing and why it is important to have a more structured organisation.
The biggest reward? “The feeling of giving back to the community – be it in Malaysia, Cambodia or elsewhere across the globe and sharing what you have with others,” says Dr. Wan Abdul. “In HBB, we regularly give food packages to poor communities. In one occasion, we brought a food package lasting for a month to single mothers. One of them cried the moment we handed over the package. It was tears of joy – she was not only happy to receive the package but to see us, young people coming to her run-down house. Life could be very short. It could end today or tomorrow or anytime, and we should never take it for granted.”