This article first appeared in City & Country, The Edge Malaysia Weekly on August 22, 2022 - August 28, 2022
MOB Specialist Clinics, which was completed in 1999 and commenced operations that year, is the only stratified, multi-owned, purpose-built medical suites in Malaysia. It has garnered much interest in terms of how to maintain such a property.
“MOB is one of the most special properties that we have ever managed as it has to comply with the Strata Management Act, the medical suites’ guidelines by MoH (Ministry of Health), as well as strict bylaws to ensure the exclusivity of the stratified medical suite status and property value,” says Datin Grace Goh, director of facilities and asset management at Henry Butcher Malaysia Property Management (Sel) Sdn Bhd.
As the appointed property manager of MOB Specialist Clinics for 11 years, she says the management corporation (MC) has clear and transparent bylaws and a well-established daily management and maintenance routine, hence it is not as challenging to manage the medical suites as one might expect.
It comprises 103 unit parcels of medical consulting suites and four retail lots that spread over an 8-storey standalone building in the compound of the Gleneagles Hospital Kuala Lumpur (previously known as Gleneagles Intan Medical Centre).
The hospital commenced operations in 1996. It was designed based on Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre in Singapore, where medical consultants were encouraged to purchase their own medical suites to promote a long-term working relationship with the hospital, hence the establishment of MOB Specialist Clinics.
Currently, 76.9% of MOB Specialist Clinics is owned by individual medical specialists and subspecialists. The remainder, which includes the four retail units on the ground floor, three medical suites and parking lots, are owned by Parkway Life REIT.
The overall occupancy rate of MOB Specialist Clinics is 94% and the collection rate has been maintained at almost 100% for years, even after an increase in the maintenance fee in 2018.
“We maintained at 25 sen psf for many years until 2018, when the MC decided to increase the charge to 75 sen psf as many service charges had increased, as well as to better prepare ourselves financially for more upgrading works in the future. We do not deny that it is an old building and many big-ticket items have almost reached the end of their life cycle,” says Dr Ananda Dharmalingam, chairman of the MC.
He adds that the proposal to increase the maintenance fee was not only strongly supported by the owners, but there were suggestions of raising the charge to RM1 psf.
“It shows that we do care about the building as it is the first and only kind of medical suites in Malaysia, as well as being about our livelihood. The community and sense of belonging is pretty strong here,” says Ananda.
It is no wonder that the building has been well maintained to serve its purpose for the past 26 years. This effort was recognised at The Edge Malaysia Best Managed and Sustainable Property Awards 2022, where the building earned a special mention in the 10 Years and Above Specialised category.
As mentioned by Ananda, MOB Specialist Clinics is an old building and some big-ticket items are due for replacement, one of them being the lifts.
“Our lifts are not the usual commercial office building lifts. We have the guidelines of spec and space from MoH and Bomba to comply with. They are old, but they are still working fairly well. We have very little down time, thanks to the regular monthly inspections to keep track of the safety and functionality of the lifts,” he says.
“Having said that, nothing is forever. That is why we have decided to increase the maintenance fees and sinking fund to prepare ourselves for when the day to upgrade the lifts come. We have funds set aside to upgrade the lift drives and controllers when the need arises.”
He adds that the MC currently has a healthy cash reserve of RM2.2 million.
Some of the previous major upgrading works were the upgrading of lift cars, which included changing the car door panels and inverters and extending the safety rails as well as the interior of the lift cars; installing air blowers that circulate fresh air in the building; upgrading all the toilets in the common areas; and repainting the building.
While the fundamental management of MOB Specialist Clinics is the same as other commercial or residential buildings, the management is under both the jurisdiction of the Commissioner of Buildings (COB) and MoH, says Goh.
“This was rather apparent during the Covid-19 pandemic, where most commercial buildings were either ordered to close or limit their operations. But MoH was running in full swing as doctors had to see sick patients,” she points out.
Apart from that, as MOB Specialist Clinics has a dialysis centre, so the management has to make sure that water and power supply are not interrupted.
“The added attention required to manage a medical building is to ensure the communication between MOB and the main hospital is always active for hospital emergency codes to be delivered promptly. Hence, the way MOB operates is far more complex than any other commercial or residential building,” says Goh.
On why quality property management matters to the building and its owners, Ananda says it is more than just value creation for the asset, but peace of mind for the owners.
“MOB Specialist Clinics is the workplace for many doctors. It is about their livelihoods. Therefore, having a good property management team that we can trust to help us look after the building, renew the necessary licences and give us advice on how to do better is important. It gives us peace of mind so we can focus on our work,” he adds.
“Winning this award will certainly motivate the long service team, namely the MC and property management team, to raise the level of our services to greater heights.”
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