Health tourism in Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR, July 10 — The tourism industry is the country’s second largest income earner after manufacturing with tourists spending RM46.1 billion last year, the Dewan Rakyat was told yesterday.

Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said said the revenue was from 20.9 million tourist arrivals last year.

The government has targeted 24.6 million tourist arrivals in 2020 with revenue from foreign exchange earnings increasing to RM59.54 billion, she said when winding up the debate on the Mid-Term Review of the Ninth Malaysia Plan (9MP).

She said the ministry would introduce “Zoom Malaysia”, a domestic travel campaign with the aim of a striking a fair and balance domestic travel packages. (I don’t even understand this sentence, for all its bad grammar, and equally vague “idea”)

To a question from Khairy Jamaluddin (BN-Rembau) on the future of health tourism, Azalina said from the Mid-Term Review of the 9MP records, a total of 637,975 patients from abroads had spent RM457.5 million on medical treatment in the country.

She said the ministry would intensify efforts to promote health tourism as Malaysia was capable of providing excellent health services to foreigners. — Bernama

Taken from Malaysian Insider here.


I personally don’t know how health tourism works. I’m assuming that it goes something like this:

I want to get a facelift, and I hear of promotions and advertisements that Malaysia offers one of the cheapest and best services in this area. So I make plans to go to Malaysia to get my surgery.

Based purely on my own lack of knowledge in this area. (And pure assumption that Malaysia DOES offer one of the best facelift services..)

Now, Azalina is Tourism Minister. Her Ministry is in charge of promoting the country so as to increase the number of tourists that come visit Malaysia and spend money in Malaysia every year. Her Ministry is also in charge of thinking up ideas as to how to “sell” the country, what image to sell, and how to build up that image. Health tourism, it seems, is an important part of it.

Again, Azalina is Tourism Minister. So my guess is that she probably doesn’t know too much about what goes on in the Health Ministry.

I do not want to question the capabilities of our Malaysian doctors and hospitals. If they do have first-class facilities and services, all the better. So maybe she is right, Malaysia IS capable of providing excellent health services to foreigners.

But lest we forget, we have 27 million Malaysians in the country, and the numbers grow every day. What kind of health service does Malaysia offer to Malaysians?

I don’t know under who’s portfolio it falls under, but I would like to know, of the many “health tourists” that come to Malaysia to seek health services, how many of them go to our government hospitals, and how many go to private hospitals?

To me, there is only one difference between private hospitals and government hospitals. And that is the kind of service you get.

In fact, I don’t think there is any lacking facility-wise in government hospitals. They are, I would say, up to par with private hospitals. Only thing is, private hospitals give you good service, because they are paid well, and you would be pretty well-to-do to be going to a private hospital.

You pay for the service. The more “papers” you have, the better your service. The more loaded you are, the less time you spend waiting in line.

My grandad had to wait for almost an entire year just to get rid of a cataract problem, when it could have been done in a week, had he went to a private hospital. That’s the difference.

It may be important that we try to get more tourists to spend their money in Malaysia, because it becomes a form of income for the country. But we cannot forget our own people in the midst of this “money-making” business.


4 Comments on “Health tourism in Malaysia”

  1. warrior2 says:

    hmm, whats the point?

  2. Victor Wee says:

    Came across this blog which covers some of your questions regarding health tourism in Malaysia:
    Thanks for the link. Will check it out.

  3. Kathy says:

    If not mistaken, most of the health tourists that comes to Malaysia goes to the private hospitals (Penang and Melaka mostly, from the articles that I read). Anything that deals with health and medical should come under the purview of the Health Ministry. But that does not mean that the Tourism Ministry cannot work with the Health Ministry on this point. It is a sharing of responsibility.

    But for Malaysia to compete in such an industry, they trully need to know who their competitors are in this region (Thailand offers one of the best service and facilities around). Can we compete with them?

  4. tempatan says:

    I sincerely believe in the saying ‘Medicine is a calling, not a business’ ‘Health Tourism’ is in fact commercializing the health sector even further – as if the present level of commercialization is already not enough! Many present day doctors have become businessmen, thus losing some amount of care and concern for their patients. Of course, they have to survive too but not at the expense of patient care and interest in the overall well being and quality of life of their patients. Walk into a private hospital in Malaysia and you will get excellent service – without the genuine interest in your well being. Now the government is indirectly encouraging this.
    You are absolutely right in the fact that facilities wise government hospitals are on par with private ones. Resource wise government hospitals are more superior too. But sad to say, government clinics do not conform to the standards set by the Health Ministry for the private clinics and hospitals – I refer to the Private Healthcare Facilities Act. So there are double standards practiced. The government is probably acknowledging the fact that their services are in fact of a lower standard than the private sector. The waiting time at govt hospitals and clinics leaves much to be desired, be it for out-patient treatment or for surgery. This is due to sheer number of patients. The staff are overloaded with work too. (Of course, who isn’t overworked you might ask). The Health Ministry should in fact clean its house first before setting standards for others.

    By health tourism the govt I believe has the numerous private hospitals in mind. I hope the day never comes when locals are discriminated against foreigners, at these hospitals.
    I wonder how the Health Ministry and Tourism Ministry are going to co-ordinate with each other in this aspect without compromising on certain principles of healthcare.
    The Health Ministry would do well to look into a few of the points you have made here.

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