Healthy rebound in medical tourism post Covid pandemic
18 Apr 2023
Medical tourism in Malaysia is slowly recovering after the country fully opened its borders in the early part of last year.
Private Hospitals Malaysia Association president Datuk Dr Kuljit Singh said medical tourism is an important part of business for private hospitals.
He said those coming to Malaysia for treatment find it easy to communicate with hospital staff as everyone speaks English and patients are given top-grade medication, unlike in some other countries.
Kuljit added that most of the private hospitals that treat medical tourists are in major urban areas such as Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Johor Bahru and Malacca.
“For medical tourists, Malaysia is a huge draw as the country offers many attractions and places to visit.
“Medical tourists from places such as the Middle East, Bangladesh, India and China are usually accompanied by their family members, who regard the trip as a holiday.
“While a medical tourist gets treated at the hospital, the family members will take the opportunity to visit the many attractions in the country.”
Kuljit said medical tourists consider healthcare in Malaysia to be very affordable compared with other countries in the region, adding that many locals may complain about the cost of treatment at private hospitals as they pay next to nothing at government hospitals.
Before Covid-19 hit the country in 2019, there were 1.2 million medical tourists who sought treatment in Malaysia.
However, as the sector is slowly recovering, about 800,000 medical tourists had sought treatment here last year.
“Malaysia has the best staff in the private sector, including top-notch specialists, and this makes it attractive to medical tourists.”
He said the private sector can add more hospitals and beds to treat patients but the cost will remain the same as there are no economies of scale when it comes to medical drugs and salaries.
Kuljit said while the government issues licences for private hospitals that meet its standards and regulations, and have the money to invest, it will not step in to help if a hospital runs into financial difficulties.
Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC) said Malaysia’s healthcare travel industry recorded more than RM1.2 billion in revenue last year – its highest since 2019 – as air travel rebounded after three years of pandemic lockdowns and travel restrictions.
It said the annual revenue of private healthcare had been steadily increasing, rising from RM527,000 in 2011 to RM1.7 billion in 2019, before Covid-19 became a pandemic.
The volume of healthcare travellers had also increased from 643,000 to over 1.2 million over the same period.
MHTC expects the medical tourism industry to continue growing, with a projected annual revenue of RM2 billion in 2025.
The council said due to the border closures and compounded impact of Covid-19, Malaysia’s healthcare travel revenues saw a sharp decline, with the biggest impact felt in the second half of 2020 and beyond.
It said the highest number of medical tourists were from Australia, Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, UK and the US.
Source: The Sun Daily