by ASILA JALIL / Pic by TMR GRAPHIC
THE Association of Private Hospitals of Malaysia (APHM) is asking the government to consider creating a green bubble for medical tourism which could boost the country’s income while setting the path to enable more tourism activities.
President Datuk Dr Kuljit Singh (picture) said medical tourism had logged more than RM1 billion in revenue in 2019 and was expected to generate more in 2020 before the pandemic hit the country.
“We find that medical tourism would be the best way of starting tourism because it is safe and is easily regulated.
“With the cooperation of the Malaysian Healthcare Tourism Council, we should be able to start to some extent to get medical tourists into our country because that would be one of our major sources of income,” he said during a virtual National Recovery Summit yesterday.
Dr Kuljit said to facilitate the process, the regulations should only allow fully vaccinated tourists who would be required to quarantine upon arrival at the hospital.
Currently, the requirements for medical tourists during a pandemic are “very restricted” and they can only use chartered aircraft which makes the process difficult for them to seek treatment in the country, he said.
“It is time for us to look into this because we have a lot of patients from neighbouring countries who are eager to come back to Malaysia to get their treatments.
“Using medical tourism will be a good impetus to the other types of tourism,” he added.
Dr Kuljit also said the public and private partnership in the healthcare system should continue post-pandemic to drive economic growth during the recovery period.
He said the move will help the government in saving costs while enhancing the operations of some private hospitals.
To ensure a seamless recovery in the healthcare system, Thomson Hospital Kota Damansara and TMC Life Sciences Bhd CEO Nadiah Wan said the best response to managing Covid-19 is by investing in primary care.
She opined that investments made in primary care could lessen the number of patients that would need intensive care, thus reducing the occupancy of intensive care unit (ICU) beds in hospitals.
“ICU care is the most expensive and the best way for us to provide a sustainable response to Covid-19 is to invest in primary care to prevent those cases from deteriorating and needing ICU treatments. “Investments in primary care does not only mean vaccines but it also includes contact tracing,” she said.
Meanwhile, Deputy Health DG Datuk Dr Hishamshah Mohd Ibrahim said the government is well aware of the situation in Sabah and Sarawak that require medical needs such as ICU beds to accommodate patients in both states.
He said the Health Ministry is currently looking at increasing the ICU and hospital beds in both states on top of utilising the private hospitals for non-Covid cases.
However, he underscored the need for more manpower at hospitals which is a crucial aspect in containing the pandemic.
“Beyond the infrastructure, we need manpower. It is not only doctors but also the other support staff who are crucial at the moment.
“Even if we build hospitals, we do not have the number of support staff that we need.
“So, in the bigger picture, we need to beef up the capacity of the healthcare system in Sabah and Sarawak. The pandemic has shown that we lack in that area and we are taking steps to address this,” he added.