by Wan Shahara Ahmad Ghazali
KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 25 (Bernama) -- Medical tourism has been identified as having the potential of being a revenue generator for the country due to the response shown by foreigners who seek quality healthcare services.
Foreigners come to Malaysia for medical tourism due to the low costd of healthcare services, complemented by existence of excellent medical technology and infrastructure.
The outcome of a survey conducted by a foreign-based body reveals that heart procedures conducted in Malaysia are 10 times cheaper than those conducted in the United States.
Indonesian tourists comprise the highest number of those seeking healthcare services followed by visitors from Arab nations.
Efforts by Melaka to boost the number of Indonesian tourists seeking healthcare services in the state appear to be bearing fruit as more Indonesians are switching their attention from Singapore to Melaka for such services.
Statistics show that in 2010, some 60 per cent of 280,000 tourists to Malaysia went to Melaka for medical treatment while Kuala Lumpur is the destination of choice for Arab tourists.
According to KPJ Healthcare (KPJ) managing director Datin Paduka Siti Sa'adiah Sheikh Bakir, Arab visitors made up eight per cent of tourists who sought healthcare services at the group's hospitals.
KPJ is Malaysia's largest group of private hospitals.
"Many foreigners choose Malaysia for elective medical procedures particularly cancer, orthopaedic and cosmetic treatment," she said after launching the Arab Community Day at KPJ Tawakal Hospital here recently.
As the Arabs prefer Malaysia as their destination for shopping, Siti Sa'adiah said that it is time for Malaysia to promote the medical tourism sector aggresively.
"KPJ has been actively promoting its services to the Arab community for more than 10 years now, " she said.
KPJ collaborated with Aswaq, a leading Aranb publication entity to stage the event. Among the guests were the first Secretary, Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia, Moharib Ibrahim Al Moharib and Arab Economic Caucus Adviser, Dr Mahmoud Al-Musafer.
She said that KPJ hospitals in Klang Valley will continue to provide the best services for the Arab community, adding that the group had managed a hospital in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia for several years.
Siti Sa'adiah said that since KPJ was established 30 years ago, its hospitals have been providing the best in terms of medical care, facilities and technology, supported by experienced personnel.
KPJ has around 10,000 professional and support medical Personnel in its service.
"We have 860 specialists in various disciplines and we are trying to attract Malaysian specialists abroad to return home to serve."
"This is our effort to provide quality clinical services on par with other hospitals worlwide," she said.
KPJ has 21 hospitals nationwide and two hospitals in Indonesia.
KPJ's newest hospital, the Klang Specialist Hospital has 200 beds.
Over the next four years, KPJ plans to fork out RM867 million to develop six new hospitals - Sabah Specialist Hospital, Pasir Gudang Specialist Hospital, Pahang KPJ Specialist Hospital, Bandar Dato' Onn Specialist Hospital, Perlis Specialist Hospital and Muar Specialist Hospital.
Aware of the medical tourism potential in Iskandar Malaysia, Siti Sa'adiah says that KPJ has plans to build a hospital equipped with the best facilities and services in the region.
The group also targets to earn RM3.0 billion in turnover within the next five years.
KPJ will also venture into a field, which is still regarded as new in Malaysia -the care of the elderly or 'hospis'.
It is now the main shareholder of Jeta Garden in Brisbane, Australia, which specialises as retirement resort for the care of the elderly.
KPJ also established the Klinik Waqaf An-Nur Jcorp (KWAN) in 1998. This group has 17 charity clinics and dialysis centres nationwide, apart from the charity healthcare institution, the Waqaf Hospital in Pasir Gudang.