Malaysia as a Destination for Medical Tourism
Magic Carpet Journals’ Editor Maxine George looks into Medical Treatment Available to Tourists in Malaysia.Via Magic Carpet Journals. Story and Photos by M. Maxine George.
The term “Medical Tourism” is attracting the attention of North Americans, who are faced with either long waiting times or exorbitant expenses for specialist appointments, medical screening, diagnostic testing, hospitalization, treatment and/or surgery. People are beginning to realize that perhaps the best way to break the log jam of waiting lists will be to look for help amongst the global community. I recently traveled to Malaysia, with a group of Canadian media, to learn what that country has to offer in the global search for timelier health care and escalating costs for elective surgery.
This was not my first visit to Malaysia. I have traveled to many destinations in that land and always found that I was hospitably received by the kind and friendly Malaysian people. The majority of people I contacted spoke or understood English well. Malaysia is a land of cultural diversity, where the various ethnic groups live in harmony. Although I was aware that their hotels and tourism facilities were excellent, I had no way of knowing about the state of their health care. As a former nurse, I wanted to investigate the facilities available; the services provided to the global traveler seeking medical assistance; the education and capabilities of their medical personnel; the diagnostic equipment available; the waiting periods for travelers seeking medical treatment; and the cost variance from that of our own medical treatment.
In all, I visited eight privately owned hospitals. I was pleasantly surprised. Each one met the standards we North Americans have come to expect of our hospitals, most exceeded those expectations. Some of those hospitals had the ambience of a high class hotel. I discovered exceptionally clean, well-equipped hospitals, with state of the art equipment, staffed with well trained, highly skilled professionals. I listened to specialists in a wide range of disciplines discuss their work. They were all enthusiastic and very knowledgeable.
I learned the facilities of these hospitals were only 60 to 80 percent utilized; therefore there were no waiting lists. Arrangements could be made for hospitalization immediately upon arrival in the country. Examinations and work-up tests were being done right away, then any follow-up treatment or surgery necessary, performed before discharge. In some hospitals, a family member could arrange to stay right in the hospital near the patient. The cost being less than the going hotel rates in Canada. After discharge the patient could recuperate locally in a beautiful, warm tropical country, where our dollar had good value. This made the Malaysian health care system very attractive to Canadians whose average waiting time between referral by general practitioner and treatment in 2005 ranged between 16.3 weeks in Ontario to 25.5 weeks in Saskatchewan, with BC coming in at 18.4 weeks, according to the Fraser Institute survey. Those waiting for orthopedic surgery in Canada were waiting an average of 40 weeks.
The hospitals were proud to tell me that 95% of their doctors received training in the United Kingdom. Others had gone to Australia or the USA. Some are involved in research, which has received world-wide attention. All came home because, as the doctors repeatedly told us, they were happy to live in their homeland, with their very agreeable climate, working at hospitals that were well equipped, where they could practice the type of medicine they were trained to deliver. To sweeten the pot, Malaysia gave incentives to these doctors to return home. They were encouraged to keep at the forefront of current knowledge in their field. Nursing schools were attached to some of the hospitals. After three years of initial training, many continued to work toward their master’s degrees. Following their training they were indentured for a further five years to work in Malaysia, therefore ‘brain drain’ was not occurring. The staff – patient ratio was amazing to me as a former Canadian nurse. In some hospitals, I was told that the ratio was 1-3, others 1-5 patients; in ICU and CCU 1-1.
The equipment in most of these hospitals was state-of-the-art. All had CT scanners, most of them the newest true 64 slice units that can scan the heart and coronary arteries in less than 5 heartbeats or 5 seconds. Either they were currently in service or they were on order, with a date of arrival within months. We learned that one hospital was using pill capsule endoscopy, which produces 55,000 images of the intestinal tract for the GI Functional Disorder Consultant to view on a video monitor. Another hospital was quite proud of their lab, which produced test results within four hours. Their services were used by other hospitals. Another hospital was just completing computerization of their entire system, including all patient files, lab results, medication and a global internet connection which were available to your own physician globally within minutes after the test was performed. Hospitals were using global conferencing to communicate with patient’s home physicians.
Elective surgery such as cosmetic surgery and dental treatment can be obtained for bargain rates in Malaysia, while combined with a tropical vacation.
Medical tourism is not new to the country. Even the British were encouraging their people to utilize the Malaysian medical facilities to relieve their overburdened system. Canadians may be wise to begin to think globally when they require medical attention in a more timely fashion. Malaysia has some answers that are worth looking into. I personally would not hesitate to turn to Malaysia for medical assistance should the need arise.
For information regarding medical tourism in Malaysia contact:
Tourism Malaysia Canada
1590 – 1111, West Georgia Street Vancouver, BC V6E 4M3
T (604) 689-8899 F (604) 689-8804 Toll free : 1-888-689-6872
Article and pictures by M. Maxine George
Last Updated February 6, 2021 by Matthew George – Webmaster