Malaysia II: “medical tourism and healthcare”
Aired November 2008
Located in Southeast Asia, Malaysia is made up of two geographical regions divided by the South China Sea. The main peninsula borders Thailand and Singapore, while the rest of its territory is on the island of Borneo, bordering Brunei and Indonesia.
Malaysia is an exciting, friendly and hassle-free destination. It’s buoyant and wealthy, and boasts one of the region’s most vibrant economies. Despite fierce competition from China and India, the country is an Asian tiger that still roars. In terms of economic welfare, Malaysia ranks second in Southeast Asia.
The stability of Malaysia’s economy has managed to attract tremendous foreign investment into the country over the past few years. It remains one of the world’s largest producers of rubber, palm oil, timber and tin. Export of electronic products is one of the main contributors to the nation’s economic growth. Malaysia is also one of the few Asian countries with its own car manufacturing industry. In recent years, the service industry, especially tourism, has become a main contributor to the economy.
The country boasts a pluralist environment based on a vibrant and interesting fusion of Malay, Chinese, Indian and indigenous cultures and customs. Multiculturalism has made Malaysia a gastronomical paradise, as well as home to hundreds of colourful festivals. As a people, Malaysians are very laid back, warm and friendly. Although Malay is the national language, English is widely spoken in both tourist and business environments throughout the country – a legacy of British rule from 1815 to 1963.
Upon gaining independence, Malaysia was led by the country’s first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman. Today, national elections are held every 5 years, and the country is a federal constitutional monarchy. The King is elected for a 5-year term from the 9 hereditary sultans of the traditional Malay states. There are altogether 13 states and 3 federal territories, with each state having its own Executive Council. There is also a federal parliament.
The nation’s love of Western-style industrialisation is abundantly clear in its big cities. In just over 100 years, its capital Kuala Lumpur has grown from almost nothing into a bustling city of over 2 million people. Today, the city is a modern Asian landscape of gleaming skyscrapers that still preserves the essence of its roots.
Aside from the glass and steel towers of the 21st century, Malaysia also boasts some of the most superb beaches, mountains and national parks in Asia. The country sits just north of the equator and boasts a tropical climate with year-round sunshine. Malaysia is one of the region’s key tourist destinations, offering excellent getaways and brilliant scenery. From cool hideaways to rich rainforests, the country’s geography is as diverse as its culture. About 75% of Malaysia’s land area remains forested, with 60% virgin rainforest that has remained unchanged for millions of years, far outdating those of South America and Africa.
Tourism is an important sector of Malaysia’s economy – it is the 2nd highest GDP contributor after the energy sector. The sector is in robust shape, and has seen healthy growth in tourist arrivals over the last few years. The majority of the tourists were from other Asian countries, attracted by the proximity and diversity of the country.
The nation is now in the middle of its 9th Malaysia Plan, developed to provide support for continued strong economic outcome. The plan covers proposed government projects, investments and policies for all sectors of the Malaysian economy and society. The country aims to become a fully developed nation by 2020. With a comprehensive development plan for progress already in place, and a vibrant economy that continues to grow, Malaysia has great potential for successful investment opportunities.
The government is also keen to encourage eligible foreigners to stay in Malaysia on a multiple-entry social visit pass under a programme called “Malaysia My Second Home”. To this effect, the country highlights itself as a family-friendly destination, with a relatively low crime rate. With its relatively low cost of living yet high quality of life, Malaysia offers a warm welcome to all.
Over the last few years, the country has also jumped on the bandwagon of medical tourism, offering world-class medical facilities and services at low-costs. Malaysia has gained reputation as one of the preferred locations for medical tourism and healthcare tours by virtue of its highly-efficient medical staff and modern healthcare facilities.
There are now more than 200 private hospitals with more than 10,000 beds in the country, compared to just 50 private hospitals with about 2,000 beds three decades ago.
People from around the world visit Malaysia for the purpose of medical treatment, both those looking for critical medical treatment as well as people in need of cosmetic and preventative care. From laparoscopic surgery to liposuction, there is a wide range of procedures available in the country’s hospitals.
A survey conducted has shown that the number of foreign patients seeking medical treatment in Malaysia has increased greatly over the years. This number is expected to continue to grow at a rate of 30% a year until 2010. Within just 3 years, the amount of revenue generated by medical tourism arrivals had increased by about RM100 million, a whopping 68% increase from the first year. It has been predicted that revenue from health tourism will exceed RM2 million by 2010.
Medical expertise in Malaysia is on par with western countries, and most private hospitals in the country have internationally-recognised quality standards. All private medical centres are approved and licensed by the Ministry of Health and are required to maintain stringent quality standards.
There are several advantages that Malaysia offers as a healthcare tourism destination.
Firstly, the country offers state-of-the-art healthcare facilities that are on par with international standards. These medical services and healthcare facilities are available at very competitive and affordable prices. Medical staff are usually highly-qualified and English-speaking professionals, with international accreditation.
Most private hospitals in Malaysia offer accommodation for their patients at reasonable prices. These can range from comfortable rooms to luxurious suites with personal butlers and full-time nurses. Sleep-in facilities for the patient’s travelling companion is also provided by some hospitals.
As Malaysia is known to be an idyllic haven, it is perfect for those seeking recuperation after their medical treatment. While patients for less-critical care cases can enjoy an exhilarating tourist experience, the country also offers enough opportunity for critically-ill patients to take a leisurely vacation on the quiet beaches. An extensive tour of Malaysia works not just as an enriching experience, but can also actively contribute to the patient’s recovery.
Health tourism has increasingly become an important source of income to the private healthcare providers in Malaysia. Given the potential of health tourism as a foreign exchange earner, the government has taken a series of proactive measures to enhance Malaysia as a preferred health tourism destination.
In a bid to consolidate efforts and further promote Malaysia as a world-class healthcare destination, the government has launched a Malaysian HealthCare (MHC) office, as well as an online portal www.malaysiahealthcare.com. The portal is a complete facilitator for health tourism, and a one-stop destination for all medical and tourism-related needs, bringing together all related services on a single platform. It acts as a channel to network, integrate, facilitate and manage all aspects of health tourism – for both the health tourists and service providers, acting as a one-stop centre, coordinating travel, accommodation, medical screening and holiday package arrangements for would-be patients. The portal also allows patients to conduct due diligence on a doctor who would be performing the required treatment by allowing patients to have direct contact with the doctor, seek consultation on the procedures, and receive advice on possible options of the treatment.
The immigration department has also extended entry visas for health tourists to the country from 30 days to 6 months, as well as multiple entries in their visas. To further ease formalities for patients, the department has also implemented a Green Lane System at main entry points, meant to expedite custom clearance for medical travellers.
Authorities believe that despite the strong growth already seen in the health tourism industry lately, there is still huge room for improvement in the sector.
Port Klang is one of the main ports of Malaysia, located in the district of Klang in the state of Selangor, on the west coast of Peninsula Malaysia. It serves the Klang Valley, including the capital Kuala Lumpur and the federal administrative capital Putrajaya. It aims to become the shipping hub of the Asia Pacific Rim, and offers comprehensive state-of-the-art facilities and services for handling cargo of all types.
Port Klang was founded in 1893 under British colonial rule, with its official opening on September 15,1901. It was then known as Port Swettenham, after the then British High Commissioner for the state, Sir Frank Swettenham. The location of the port was chosen after a study found that its coastal area has a harbour with deep anchorage, free from dangers and suitable for wharves. Its development was accelerated further with the extension of a railway line from Kuala Lumpur to the new port.
Today, a well-developed and efficient transportation infrastructure is in place to handle the volume of cargo traffic at Port Klang. It is served by KTM Komuter stations, which link it to Kuala Lumpur, Petaling Jaya, Shah Alam and other parts of the Klang Valley. A ferry terminal to Pulau Ketam and an international terminal to Tanjung Balai and Dumai in Indonesia are also located in the area. Several expressways also link the port to its hinterland.
Located about 40 kilometres from the capital, the port’s proximity to the commercial and industrial hub of the country ensures that it plays a pivotal role in the economic development of the country. Its ideal geographical location makes it the first port of call for ships on the east-bound leg, and the last port of call on the west-bound leg of the Far East-Europe trade route.
The official plan is to develop the port as a National Load Centre, and eventually a hub for the region. With a number of successful strategies pursued over the years, the facilities and services offered in Port Klang are now synonymous with those of world-class ports. The port also has trade connections with over 120 countries, and dealings with more than 500 ports around the globe.
In line with government policy to introduce private sector management into various government-owned entities in the country, the first privatisation of a major port facility took place in Port Klang. In 1986, the container terminal facilities were privatised. This was followed in 1992 by the privatisation of the remaining operational facilities and services of the port.
The port was also given a free commercial zone status in 1993. This means that there will be duty-free storage of cargo as well as sales tax exemption on all goods that pass through the port. Goods can also be brought into the port for subsequent re-export without an import permit, allowing for greater flexibility and reduced restrictions.
In a further bid to reduce cost and increase productivity, One Stop Agency has been established to facilitate port-related activities and enhance throughput at the site. The introduction of the Port Klang Community System will also ensure that all transactions will now be paperless and hassle-free, with resulting convenience and efficiency.
There are plans to further develop and expand the port and its facilities in future. It is expected that by 2010, the port will able to handle projected cargo throughput of about 130 million tonnes.
With a comprehensive development plan for progress already in place, and a vibrant economy that continues to grow, Malaysia has great potential for successful investment opportunities.