Officials in Penang, a religiously diverse island near Malaysia’s border with Thailand have announced the founding of the island’s first Buddhist non-profit hospital, the Kek Lok Si Charitable Medical Centre. The center, scheduled to open its doors to the public in May, has pledged to keep fees below those of other charitable hospitals in the area.
Kek Lok Si Charitable Medical Centre will be on the grounds of Kek Lok Si Temple, the largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia. The temple is home to a 36.6-meter bronze statue of Guanyin and a jade Buddha statue—believed to be one of the largest in the world—made from jade mined in Myanmar and carved in China.
The temple, whose name translates as Sukhāvati in Sanskrit, or “land of supreme joy,” is nestled on a hillside, with panoramic views of the city and ocean, and has grown into a popular pilgrimage site for Buddhists in the region. The abbot, Venerable Seck Jit Heng, who is also a former president of the Malaysian Buddhist Association, will chair the hospital board.
“This is not the first charitable hospital in the state, but rest assured that the fees here will be much lower than the lowest fee by all the other charitable hospitals here,” said Dr. Teng Hock Nan, board member and medical superintendent at the hospital. “We cater only to Malaysians, especially the needy.” (New Straits Times)
The facility is five stories tall and occupies a small portion of the Buddhist temple grounds. It will house facilities including X-ray machines, ultrasound and CT scanners, modular critical care, and a hemodialysis center. The hospital will offer 50 beds with a staff of 130, including seven resident consultants, two doctors, two sessional consultants, and a visiting consultant.
“We hope to expand our hospital to have a total of 200 beds in the future,” said Dr. Teng. (Free Malaysia Today)
Aiming to avoid the medical tourism common in the region, Dr. Teng said: “If there is an emergency case involving a foreigner, we will treat them until their condition is stable before being transferred to other hospitals.” (Malay Mail)
The Penang state government has allocated RM200,000 (US$48,698) to the hospital, and officials have expressed hope that the same contribution will be made annually.
“Since the hospital runs fully on donations and the hospital’s expenses are very high, we hope the state will consider approving annual funding for the hospital to be released in the beginning of each year,” Dr. Teng said when Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow visited the hospital. (Malay Mail)
Chow urged all non-governmental organizations and corporations, the Penang Chinese Town Hall, the Penang Chinese Chamber of Commerce, and multinational companies to support the charitable hospital.
The hospital is in its final phase before opening after recently receiving a certificate of completion and compliance from the state government.
According to 2010 data, Buddhism is the second-largest religion in Malaysia, observed by 19.6 per cent of the population. The largest religion, Islam, is followed by 61.5 per cent of the population. Christianity represents 9.2 per cent, while 6.3 per cent of Malaysians are Hindus. Most Malaysian Buddhists follow Chinese Mahayana traditions, although influences from neighboring Thai and Burmese Theravada Buddhism can also be found.
Kek Lok Si Charitable Medical Centre to open in May (New Straits Times)
Kek Lok Si medical centre to open in May (Free Malaysia Today)
Penang’s first Buddhist non-profit hospital to open its doors in May (Malay Mail)