Prevention is better than cure. As health is of paramount importance, people will do virtually anything to keep healthy and fit. They may take up sports, opt for alternative health care or go overseas for medical treatment.
Seeking medical treatment abroad is not seen as a trend among the affluent but as a necessity. Besides Singapore, Malaysia is also popular among Indonesians seeking health care abroad. The reasons are varied and range from the competence of foreign doctors, the facilities of the hospitals and optimum services to financial considerations vis-…-vis seeking medical treatment in Singapore.
At least this is what Nobelson Susanto, an entrepreneur familiar with medical treatment in Malaysia, says. About two years ago, Eddy Virgo, Susanto’s uncle, was diagnosed with diabetes. His uncle at first sought medical treatment at Jakarta Siloam Hospital in Pantai Indah Kapuk. However, his family urged him to go abroad to get a second opinion. “We first discussed which country to visit. Once we thought of going to Singapore but after considering it for a while, we decided to seek medical treatment at the Island Hospital in Penang, Malaysia,” said Susanto.
According to Susanto, medical treatment in Malaysia is as good as in other countries. “The facilities, the services and the competence of the doctors are up to standards,” he said. Island Hospital, he added, is a hospital with bona fide services and is on a par with Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore. Medical treatment costs in Malaysia, however, tend to be lower than in Singapore. Besides, the Malaysian ringgit tends to be more stable than the Singapore dollar. “When we seek medical treatment abroad, we think not only about how to cover the costs but also take into account accommodation expenses. Financially speaking, medical treatment in Malaysia is more economical, but the quality of this treatment really deserves kudos,” Susanto said.
In the case of Susanto’s uncle, his medical treatment lasted about six months. Almost every month, he had to go to Malaysia for treatment. His progress was visible and his health gradually improved. Generally, Susanto said, many patients in Penang come from Medan because Medan and Penang are looked upon as twin cities owing to their cultural similarities and historical links. “The intonation is quite similar so you feel as though you are visiting Medan. In addition, the dishes in Penang suit Indonesian tastes,” he said.
Meanwhile, Victoria Manurung, an employee at Haga Bank, also had a similar experience. Her father had been diagnosed with cancer. Initially he was treated at Fatmawati Hospital, Jakarta but was later transferred to Cipto Mangunkusomo General Hospital (RSCM) for therapy. However, RSCM was overcrowded, so his family decided to take him to Malaysia for treatment. “We got recommendations from a relative, who lived in Malaysia and was therefore well informed about medical treatment there,” said Victoria (Vicky). At first, Vicky took her father to the Adventist Hospital. However, this hospital specializes in heart disease and so she was advised to take her father to Mount Miriam Hospital in Penang, which specializes in cancer.
After two years of treatment at this hospital, her father was declared cancer-free in early 2007. Of course, two years of medical treatment is not easy on the pocket, no matter where you go. However, Vicky was lucky that her passport was issued in Medan even though she lives in Jakarta, as Medan residents are exempt from departure tax when traveling to Malaysia. “This meant saving some money,” she said.
In addition, Vicky said, family members of a patient can easily find an apartment for rent in Penang, rather that stay at a hotel. “At that time the rent was quite low, about Rp 100,000 a day. This meant about Rp 3 million a month. The place was pretty good, plus it was comfortable,” she said.
Penang, Vicky said, is one of the best destinations for medical treatment in Malaysia. In Penang, it is possible to shop as well as visit tourist sites for free. “There is a tourist attraction in Penang called Bukit Bendera. It is really a nice place and you can visit it free of charge. This hill has a garden, restaurant and cable car,” she said. Nevertheless, she went on, her main purpose was to get medical treatment for her father, not to have a holiday. “As we happened to be in Penang, we also had went sightseeing to overcome the stress. It was rather monotonous staying at the apartment and only visiting the hospital,” she said.
Meanwhile, Cynthia Limanouw, who works for a men’s magazine, has a different story. Wies Budiman, her mother, regularly visited Singapore for medical treatment. One day, however, Cynthia, attended a seminar on medical tours in Malaysia, which led her to take her mother for a general checkup at Gleneagles Intan Medical Center in Kuala Lumpur.
It turned out, Cynthia said, that the facilities and services in Malaysia were just as good as those in Singapore. And more importantly, the cost of medical treatment in Malaysia is much lower than in Singapore. “Hospitals in Malaysia are clean and fragrant while their services are really customer-oriented like at star-rated hotels. These elements make me respect Malaysian hospitals,” Cynthia said. (Iwan Suci Jatmiko)
The Jakarta Post, December 19, 2007