Medical Tour: Getting Medical Treatment While Having a Trip

You can now go abroad for medical treatment and simultaneously enjoy yourself, shop or just go sightseeing. Many hospitals in neighboring countries offer this type of package. Singapore, which offers excellent health services with world-class health facilities and medical specialists, is an interesting destination for a medical tour.

Many Indonesian celebrities go to Singapore for medical treatment. Jakarta socialites have checkups in Singapore. Even defendants in court cases have been known to fly to Singapore for the same reason. Indeed, Singapore, an island-state, is a promising place for those in need of medical treatment.

Doctors in Singapore are generally highly skilled and experienced. The medical equipment is state-of-the-art and the medical services first-class. That’s why many people from other parts of Asia and even from other parts of the world pin their hopes for a cure on Singapore. Every year, according to a Singapore medical website, over 150,00 international patients go to Singapore for various kinds of medical treatment, ranging from general checkups to major surgery such as heart surgery.

There are many hospitals in Singapore to choose from, such as the Thomson Medical Center, Raffles Hospital, Singapore General Hospital and the National University Hospital to name but a few. Besides being easily accessible, these hospitals also offer luxury because they are designed like star-rated hotels and do not in the least look like a regular hospital. The services they offer also resemble those given by first-class hotels. That’s why international patients may enjoy nonmedical services. They, for example, may ask to be met at the airport or ask the hospital to find them a place to stay while they are in Singapore.

Indeed, Singapore has become savvy in selling medical services. Indonesia is reportedly the main target market for Singapore’s hospitals. About 40 percent of the 200,000 patients who go to Singapore for medical treatment are from Indonesia.

Singapore is indeed a better choice if faced with the choice of getting medical treatment in Singapore, Europe or the U.S. Sonia Wibisono, an physician-artist, agrees with this opinion, adding that not only are hospitals in Singapore very modern but the doctors are also experienced and highly skilled.

“If a patient goes to Singapore, he not only gets medical service but also gets to enjoy the atmosphere of cosmopolitan, world-class urban facilities and various attractive forms of entertainment,” she said.
Besides Singapore, Malaysia is also luring Indonesians with medical tourism packages. Although not quite as popular as Singapore, Penang is gaining ground with Indonesian patients and tourists.

Penang, known as the Pearl of the Orient, is a coastal city. Measuring some 285 square kilometers with a population of 1.2 million people, Penang used to be noted for its spices and palms. Foreigners have come to Penang’s shores since the days of yore. In 1786, the sultan of Kedah handed over the protection of Penang to Capt. Francis Light of Britain.

Today Penang is a combination of old, as evident in its British colonial buildings, and modernity, as manifested in the great number of high-rises, such as star-rated hotels like the Shangri-La, Copthorne Orchid Hotel, Berjaya George Town Hotel and Paradise Sandy Beach Resort.

If you have not visited Malaysia, particularly Penang, in the past few years, you may be surprised to see how advanced this multiracial state has become in every sector, including in its health care services. International-class hospitals have sprung up such as the Adventist Hospital, Mount Miriam Hospital, Logh Guan Lye Specialist Center and Island Hospital.

“When one of my family members or I get sick, we go get medical treatment on Penang Island rather than fly to Jakarta. The doctors in Penang are reputable and the medical service is first-class,” said Rayendra, a businessman from Medan. You can reach Penang from Medan in just 40 minutes by plane. Indonesian citizens holding Indonesian passports issued in Medan are not required to pay exit tax when traveling to Malaysia.

So, it is more economical to get medical treatment in Penang than in Jakarta. The one-way fare between Medan and Penang is not more than Rp 500,000. Consulting a physician costs only RM 25 (Rp 62,000). A standard hospital room costs RM 290 (Rp 712,000) a night, a super deluxe room RM 460. A heart test using modern equipment costs RM 460, a complete medical checkup that includes a urine test, a chest X-ray and an ECG costs RM 600.

Located in Georgetown in the heart of Penang city, Island Hospital has spacious and comfortable rooms. Opened in 1996, this hospital, which can accommodate 140 inpatients and see 400 outpatients daily, has all the facilities that a patient may need. It has 26 divisions including the heart treatment, neurology, rehabilitation and physiotherapy, radiology, urology, speech therapy centers, i-Laser Center for eye laser surgery and the fertility center.

“It is like a shopping center. You can have everything there,” said Island Hospital’s chief executive officer Dr. Chan Kok Ewe, chuckling.

Although you can get practically all kinds of medical treatment there, the services are always carefully given. Aside from some 40 medical specialists, the hospital is also equipped with the latest medical equipment. It has a CT Scanner that is capable of detecting every layer of the body from head to toe so that not a single disease goes undetected.

There are three operating theaters, each with its own level of air pressure. The main room leading to the ICU is bacteria-free. The medical equipment is modern as it is based on the laser method. The use of laser not only greatly facilitates surgery but also ensures that the result of the surgery is very neat.

Island Hospital public relations officer Nora Hamid said that the concept of a hotel was applied in this hospital. As most of the hospital’s international patients come from Indonesia, Island Hospital, which is eyeing the upper segment of the market, has officers who speak Malay.

“We want patients to feel at home so that they will have a speedy recovery,” she noted.

Nora, formerly a public relations officer at a star-rated hotel, said that Island Hospital had introduced new divisions such as a plastic surgery center, a clinic for dental maintenance and reconstruction.

“So you can have a holiday in Penang and at the same time have special treatment for your face and body. When you leave Penang, you are more beautiful,” said Nora.

Penang has the good fortune to be able to offer various kinds of health services in a holiday atmosphere. Providing excellent facilities and first-class services, Penang can surely be an important medical destination in Malaysia. Again, Indonesians make up the biggest portion (72 percent) of its international patients.

Indeed, when an Indonesia goes to Penang for medical treatment, he or she can at the same time savor the natural beauty of the place. So, in other words, he or she is also enjoying a tour! (Burhan Abe)

The Jakarta Post, April 16, 2006

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