In this season of coronavirus, the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC) – which was established in 2009 to provide seamless end-to-end healthcare journeys for visitors – swings into action by ensuring life-saving procedures are still available for visitors from neighbouring countries. The country’s healthcare system has gained steady recognition over the years and Malaysia Healthcare is now a brand, with the country achieving top position globally with regards to the volume of inbound medical tourists. Yet, there is still a recourse for those seeking to undergo procedures, specifically life-saving ones, in Malaysia. The MHTC, in consultation and with the guidance of the Ministry of Health, has established a comprehensive “healthcare travel journey” in the new normal whereby all the components of the Malaysian healthcare system plays a part.
The process is planned to ensure that life-saving procedures are possible while minimising any risk of infection with a triple Covid-19 test applied on these travellers throughout the entire process, as well as numerous other safety measures among them; only one companion per traveller is allowed, unless it is a child in which case two adults are allowed. This effort involves the private hospitals registered under the MHTC and air evacuation or chartered flights (prices average at about RM20,000 per person inside the socially-distanced cabin of an Airbus A320 from Jakarta), to immigration services.
On the back of 2019’s impressive 1.3 million visitors and 2018’s RM2.86 billion receipts (of which RM1.5 billion are derived from hospital receipts) from medical tourists, 2020 was poised to be another record-setting year with a targeted RM2 billion in hospital receipts alone derived from inbound travellers seeking medical treatment. However, the pandemic and its subsequent halt on international travel has made the situation a lot more challenging for these visitors (of which Indonesia is by far its largest component contributing approximately 50 per cent of the arrival numbers). Still, with the establishment of these procedures, approximately 20 medical visitors thus far have been allowed to enter Malaysia under the stringent standard operating procedures which has been established post MCO. Historically, the top procedures sought in Malaysia by these medical tourists include general health screenings, oncology, cardiology, aesthetics, dental, orthopaedics and fertility treatments.