Our health services: On a wing and prayer

On July 10, a group of friends from Klang sent out a note which among others said: “The medical services in Klang, a Covid-19 red zone, have been critically affected particularly Tengku Ampuan Rahimah Hospital (HTAR).

“This pandemic is turning out to be an unprecedented health crisis and Klang is now ground zero in the battle against the raging chain of virus infections that has devastated lives and livelihoods across the social and economic spectrum.

“Staff at HTAR’s Intensive Care Unit are struggling to cope with the rising number of cases amid a shortage of beds, oxygen supplies and other essential needs.”

Three days later, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin visited the hospital which is struggling to cope with the number of Covid-19 patients and announced that an additional 151 beds would be placed at the Mother and Child Care Complex and the hospital would also receive another 15 ventilators.

“I have ordered (the authorities) to look into the mental health of (frontliners) and the people and ensure that the welfare and morale of health workers are taken care of,” he was quoted as saying by Astro Awani.

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin visiting HTAR in Klang

Crisis settled? Not exactly. Besides ventilators and beds, other equipment was still lacking. The fund-raising continued and on July 17, I received a note from a former classmate: “Talking about HTAR, the ordinary folks in Klang in a matter of days collected more than RM100,000 and purchased much-needed equipment (as indicated by hospital authorities) and handed over the same.

“This even included even stethoscopes. Would you believe that? And they have some excess funds. Where the government has failed (discriminated) the people stepped in. The true spirit of oneness.”

My immediate retort in annoyance was: “I do not agree with collecting money to buy equipment for government hospitals. It is supposed to be fully funded but money is being diverted elsewhere. That minister spent millions on sanitisation which brought no benefits. She refused to listen to experts. So many other instances.”

For a good measure, I quipped: “Money from the public should be used to feed the people, most of whom have been ignored and isolated by the government. By the way, if they don’t have money to buy stethoscopes, it is an indication that the coffers have been emptied by political looters.”

A week later, in jest, I asked one of the friends: “Why did you stop with the hospital? When are you starting a collection for the police station? They need two more personal computers at the inquiry office. Maybe you should consider supplying stationary like A4 paper and printer ink for to all the government offices in Klang.”

These brief exchanges of messages on WhatsApp over a week sum up the state of the healthcare system in the country. Neither here nor there, the system is struggling with insufficient equipment and overworked and fatigued frontliners and a host of other problems.

The situation is further aggravated by over-zealous bosses, some of whom themselves need to attend a course on communications and managing people.

My argument was and still is: Shouldn’t the supply of proper equipment be made available by the government? As a matter of fact, the government has allocated billions for the fight against Covid-19 and if hospitals are going out with begging bowls, then we can only assume it is mismanagement.

Subang Jaya assemblyperson Michelle Ng Mei Sze’s has chronicled the events which led to her running from pillar to post just to get an ambulance to transport a constituent to the hospital. It is a telling story on how even support services are collapsing because of the sheer numbers and that nothing is being done about it.

In her Facebook on Tuesday, she noted: “At about 10.30pm, I got an urgent call from a woman who lives in one of Subang’s low-cost flats. My assistant called various ambulance services but none could assist. He called 999 only to be told that the request had been channelled to the nearest hospital, ‘but it is up to the hospital to decide whether or not to respond’.”

Private ambulance services are charging between RM700 and RM1,400 plus RM200 to every hospital the patient is taken to. To cut a long story short, the patient was finally taken to Kuala Lumpur Hospital (HKL).

At about 2am, the assistant texted to inform Ng that the ambulance had arrived, and updated that woman’s blood pressure was soaring. They had to give her oxygen as she had difficulty breathing after walking down the stairs.

At 2.52am, the ambulance reached HKL, and had to wait under the tent outside the door for a doctor. Finally, at 7.43am, the assistant updated: “She is in the decompression room now. There are seven other people before her waiting for a bed. At least she is inside.”

One live may have been saved but how many are being lost because of the shambles the health system is in? Hopefully, the money allocated by the Treasury has not been cleaned out – yet.

In his budget speech last November, Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz said a total of RM475 million has been allocated for the purchase of reagent supplies, test kits and consumables for the Health Ministry (MOH).

Meanwhile, some RM318 million has been set aside for Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and hand sanitisers to frontliners while RM150 million was allocated to the National Disaster Management Agency (Nadma).

Since then, there have been additional allocations for health services. As recent as May 22, Zafrul announced an additional allocation of RM200 million to help the ministry treat and fight Covid-19, including buying equipment.

The additional sum would make the total Covid-19 allocation for MOH this year RM1 billion. This does not include donations from the public and a whopping RM400 million from glove manufacturers.

Thumping chests and patting each other on the shoulders and claiming that Malaysia’s daily vaccination rate is amongst the highest in the world counts little when our health workers are not provided the basic equipment – stethoscopes.

If the government cannot even provide ambulance services and when patients have to wait hours to be attended to, something is severely wrong with how the ministry manages its finances and allocations.

If you have no money to buy a basic necessity such as a stethoscope, what else can be said? Where has all the money gone to? Pray tell us.


R NADESWARAN is a veteran journalist who writes on bread and butter issues.

*The views expressed are those of the author. If you have any questions about the content, copyright or other issues of the work, please contact Newswav.

他!十年磨一剑!

命运可以被改变吗?答案是可以的。

他是犹太裔,又是黑人,由单亲妈妈扶养,自小在被边缘、充满歧视的环境下长大。他认命,但不认输,最后从一位C级生变成亿万富豪!

这听起来像极了心灵鸡烫的题材,但却是确确实实发生在美国企业界里。

他,就是美国房地产科技独角兽之一Compass的联合创办人Robert Reffkin。

世界经济龙头房市

2020年是新冠肺炎疫情爆发的年头,作为世界经济龙头的美国,自然也受影响,尤其是房地产市场都深受重击。

巧好相反的是,美国房地产市场逆势强升,在过去一年市场规模扩大2.5兆美元,取得自2005年以来最猛的成长,使美国房市市值飙至36兆美元!

旨在为房产经纪提供最利营销科技武器的Compass,在今年4月上市,各别持有6%股份的两位创始人Robert Reffkin及Ori Allon,身家马上爆涨,Robert更被誉为全美国最富有的黑人富豪之一。

Compass现今市值超过60亿美元,而Robert与Ori当初选择创办这个房屋经纪科技平台,完全是因为想选一个可以避开“GAFA王国”地盘的领域,而在保健与房产领域之间,两人选择了后者。

“GAFA王国”是指Google、Apple、Facebook及Amazon等科技巨臂形成的市场垄断。

英雄何必 问出处

出生于1980年代的Robert,由于是犹太裔又是黑人,从小就习惯了孤独,没有归宿感,他无法融入任何一个群体,因为无论在哪个圈子都会被排挤。

但就是这从小的“磨练”,反而形成一股内在成长的推动力,不停要求自己、鞭策自己,以求未来过更好的生活。

Robert在高中求学时期已经开始创业,曾任职唱片骑师(DJ),凭此储蓄到人生的第一个10万美元存款。由于这样的半工半读,Robert并不是一位成绩良好的A级生,他反而形容自己是一位C级生,那就是平均起来科科都拿C的意思。

高中毕业后,Robert在哥伦比亚大学进修经济、哲学和历史系,只花了两年半时间就完成学士课程,他想早点毕业,那就可以节省更多费用。

毕业后,他就到了纽约发展,选择那里是因为纽约似乎是可以接受任何事情、任何肤色的地方。辗转间,他获得在全球知名管理咨询公司麦肯锡(Mckinsey)的一个工作机会。

唯在麦肯锡2年期间, 他并未获得续留转正的机会,加上10万美元存款与工作收入都全赔在股市投资上,Robert在此时决定重返哥伦比亚大学,攻读工商学硕士课程。

心存正念 贵人多

完成工商学硕士后,Robert的职途开始进入顺遂,包括先在华尔街顶级投资银行Lazard工作。在这里,他遇到一位贵人并告诉他说,身为黑人的事实并不是他追梦的重大阻碍,还鼓励他到美国白宫求职。

在这番鼓励下,他申请到白宫求职,从此逐渐走上人生巅峰,包括后来到了华尔街另一投资银行高盛任职。

在高盛任职的岁月,Robert也遇到一位前辈给了他很受用的建议;前辈告诉他,停止尝试把自己弱点转化为优点,更应该做的是把弱点极小化,而极力放大自己优点与强项,才能更突显自己。

在离开高盛时,Robert已是副总裁职位。

Robert在白宫工作就结识了Ori,Robert形容Ori是“魔术师”,因为Ori绝对业界内的风头人物,他曾经把自己创建的2间公司,成功脱售给谷歌与推特。

机会来了 先捉牢

2012年,Robert想申请一个非营利组织的工作,为面试准备了一份企划书(business plan),由于企划书内的点子太好,反而获得对方反建议出资50万美元让他去创办公司,还告诉他,如果1年后失败了,才聘请他在非营利组织工作。

我们常说,当机会来了,尽管不确定是否做得到,但也别犹豫,拿下了再打算!

于是,Robert联同Ori创立了Compass,一家为房产经纪提供最利营销武器的科技公司!凭着两人强大人脉, 筹得800万美元的创始资金,成为2012年筹得最多种子基金的初创企业。

其实Robert对房地产领域并不熟悉,当初会在保健与房产之间,选择了房产来创业,是因为他母亲是一位房产经纪。母亲常告诉他,因为无法获得各种支援,而频繁地转换不同的房产经纪公司。

所以Robert对房产经纪“需要什么”有一定的了解。他也在调查中发现,房产经纪近90%的时间都花在次要的工作上,而不是用在推销及签单上。他们的工作效率无法提升,是因为他们都在用很传统的方法来办事,其中最欠缺的就是科技的运用。

Compass使命与科技武器

Compass的使命是“帮助每个人在世界上找到自己的所在地”,公司成立后的重大任务之一,就是要把全美国超过600项房产数据,使用科技整合在同一平台,并且善用互联网及数据库的优势,建立即时分析软体。

这么一来,房屋销售流程的效率将得以大幅提升,直接受益的就是房产经纪!

首先,Compass创建了一个连接房屋经纪、买方及卖方的平台。

该平台本来取名Urban Compass,因为平台内的经纪都是熟悉用户所在地区的“地头虫”(社区专家)。

此外, Compass与经纪之间的合作也非以绩效佣金来建立,反之经纪都是被全职雇佣,并按客户满意度获得基本薪酬和奖金。

Compass提供给经纪的科技工具包括:

一、Compass Collection(即时在线交互):功能包括搜索房源及预约,用户也可以给予评价和反馈,并在完成线下看房及“面签”等。用可以通过“整理清单”功能,搜索属意中的房屋,并像网购APP里的“购物车”那样,随时添加或移除。用户还可以邀请其他用户(比如家人、伴侣及设计师等)加入,在“亲友给力”功能里一起讨论。用户还可以在APP内即时跟进房价和最新状态,甚至设置“提醒”讯息的推送。

二、Compass CRM(客户关系管理):经纪业务性质是非常讲究关系建立与管理,但在“错的时间里找对的人”,很可能从此搞砸了一段关系,甚至一单生意。

所以Compass其中一个有利工具就是客户关系管理,该功能利用新科技,可测算出“最佳邮件发送时间”,从而提升经纪与客户的日常沟通效率,也大大提高服务效率。

Compass这个平台使整个购屋流程得以改善,方便了用户找房或卖房的处理,尽管现今许多人可以从其他网络平台找到属意房屋并完成交易,但更多购屋者都倾向需要经纪协助来完成。

对经纪来说,在运用科技工具提高效率后,平均每年可以完成交易的数量提高至7.4宗。

新冠疫情的危与机

Compass的主盈利来源是房产销售佣金和贷款推介费用。

除了经纪业务,Compass也有房屋售前装潢业务,合作商包括室内设计师、承包商、水电工、清洁工及园林工人等等。

另外,Compass也为购屋者提供过渡贷款(Bridge Loan),提供更优惠的贷款利率,及提供6个月短期周转贷款。

去年爆发的新冠疫情,对房地产的冲击也堪大,但是因为商业模式的布局,使Compass从初期的裁员375人,到后来的逆市扩张,还上市成为房产科技独角兽!

由于Compass的商业模式从一开始就面向高端市场,加上是以数码化的方式运行,使它的业务从去年6月份开始就出现了好转。

Compass内的房屋,平均价都是达到130万美元,对象是高消费能力人士。疫情对中低下层的打击尤为明显,但对中高收入者来说,会反而因为疫情需要经常居家办公,而对住宿空间的素质要求提升。

加上低利率的推动,使富阶人士对购买第二间房屋的欲望提升,美国房市的高端市场反而更兴旺。

无暇可击的房产科技巨臂

从2012年创立至今,Compass筹集了16亿美元融资,并且进行了许多并购,这包括了收购12家独立经纪公司、于2019年2月收购云端CRM软件公司Contactually、同年11月完成收购人工智能和机器学习公司Detectica,并且在2020年10月收购房屋产权转移中托管服务自动化处理公司Modus。

这一连串的收购行动,都是Robert与Ori的精心布局,为Compass打造完美的房产业生态体系,以组成一家更无暇可击的房产科技巨臂。

尽管面对许多相似竞争者 Zillow、Redfin等的挑战,但是Robert认为,科技的投资是必然的;20年前就不断投资科技的公司,就可以在20年后的今天跑得比同行快。

同样道理放在今时今日的Compass,未来不止跑得更快、还会跑得更远!

Compass在不到10年时间内,崛起成为美国前三大的房屋经纪公司,经纪人数达到2万人,员工超过3000人。自今年4月上市以后,Compass市值已经超过60亿美元,2020年的年度营业额更是超过37亿美元。

如果要说Robert是一位C级生,那他应该也是最优级的C级生!

Robert Reffkin人生格言带给我们的领会:

  1. 我是C级生:从C级生变亿万富翁,Robert的人生格言之一就是“feel comfortable with being uncomfortable”,意思就是跟心里内在的不安相协共处,不安也是一种推动力,只有不断感到不安又能与之相协共处,才会一直驱动自我成长。
  2. 认命不认输:他是犹太裔又是黑人,在他认清这个身份的无法切换后,就全然接受,并且不再成为他追梦的重大阻碍。我们有时总会因为自己的出身而自我矮化,但提早认清与接受,绝对可以让你更快反击并且赢得漂亮的一战。
  3. 聚焦在强项:我们常会陷入一个思维上的误区,就是尝试把自己打造得更完美,把弱点转化为优点。但其实不完美,才是人生,更应该做的是把弱点极小化,极力专注及放大自己的强项,才能更突显自己。