Competing to Pamper the Sick

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Health and vacation seem to be contradictory, but in reality they can be combined. Just check with a travel agent and you will find numerous medical tours to foreign countries being offered. Likewise, airlines also sell tickets to several destinations that have noted hospitals that provide both general checkups and serious treatment.

We often hear about Indonesian celebrities going to Singapore or Malaysia for medical treatment. Surprisingly, even high-ranking officials on trial abruptly fly there, reasoning that they need treatment. Indeed, both countries are promising destinations for matters related to health.

What is interesting is that going abroad for medical treatment is no longer dominated by the rich. A number of malpractice cases here have prompted many patients to opt for Malaysian hospitals, for example, as the service there is quite satisfactory while the price is relatively low.

Ira Nurlita, a resident of Jakarta, for instance, had her breast tumor checked in Penang, Malaysia, at PantaiMutiaraHospital, a well-known hospital on the island. She came to know about the hospital from an article in a magazine. “Well, I just happen to be able to combine medical treatment with a holiday there,” she said.

She said she was very satisfied with the professional services provided by the hospital, which had sophisticated facilities. She was also offered the services of a personal assistant, who helped her from registration to guiding and clarifying the procedures at the hospital.

The administration and procedure system were impeccable. Almost everything at the hospital was computerized. Although, of course, she had consultations prior to having a mammogram and scanning. During her consultations she was asked routine questions, such as whether she was pregnant and the date of her last period. “I had to provide the same answers a number of times even though the answers were noted in my medical records, but I think such confirmation is positive and it made me feel secure,” she said.

Professionalism is what is offered by Malaysian hospitals, which are among the best in the world. Again, professional services and competitive prices are the key to the success of the hospitals. Everything concerning medical treatment and health care in Malaysia is tightly supervised by the Malaysian Health Ministry, while regulations are also very strict. International certification is also very common. Patients stay in superior rooms with services that are on par with or exceed those of five-star hotels along with world standard medical treatment.

Next to Penang, Malacca is another medical destination in Malaysia. It has reputable medical centers with highly experienced specialists, and its close proximity to Singapore and Indonesia and its historical atmosphere attract thousands of medical tourists every year.

Indonesian patients spend billions to trillions of rupiah in Malaysia. In 2006 alone, about 60,000 patients from Riau islands, for instance, went on medical tours. The islands are a short distance from Malacca. Each patient spent Rp 30 million to Rp 40 million. According to the head of the Riau Health Office, Taswin Yacob, as quoted by Tempo Interaktif, one of the reasons so many Riau patients go to Malaysia is that Riau lacks good health facilities. In total Rp 1.5 trillion was spent by people from Riau for such purposes.

Taswin said another factor behind the many patients going to Malaysia generally or Malacca in particular was the free departure tax scheme between Singapore, Johor and Riau. An aggressive promotion and the maintaining of a positive image has made Malacca an ideal medical-cum-tourist destination.

Promotions by hospitals and other relevant departments is indeed attractive. Melaka, for example, offers various health packages that include treatment by specialists at the MahkotaMedicalCenter, Malacca. The doctors and specialists are highly dedicated and are all graduates from Britain.

The MahkotaMedicalCenter is a private medical center with 300 luxury rooms. It has various specializations and sub-specializations as well as sophisticated facilities. It is located in the heart of the city close to shopping centers. “In addition, the medical package is combined with accommodation in a hotel and a tour package,” reads the promotion.

Currently many hospitals offer a combination of medical and tour packages. Malacca has a number of hospitals that offer complete medical treatment, starting from general checkups, treatment of serious ailments, such as heart disease and cancer as well as modern-day conditions and degenerative diseases.

Patients at Malacca hospitals are also treated like tourists and hence are pampered. Patients can make hospital reservations in their home country. Research through the Internet will help a person find the most suitable hospital or clinic for their needs along with the estimated cost before departure. Patients are usually picked up at the airport or seaport and given professional and friendly treatment. Full information is given so the patient feels comfortable and secure.

In Malacca there is almost no difference between the facilities of private and government hospitals. Clean and modern design with a combination of pastel and bright colors make the atmosphere more relaxing, just like on a holiday. Perhaps it can be said that the skills and capabilities of doctors in other countries, including here, are equal. However, one should take their hat off to the way Malaysian doctors communicate with their patients, as illustrated by Ira.

“At a well-known hospital in Jakarta, my uncle found his doctor to be arrogant and reluctant to explain his illness in detail. It was nothing like that in Malaysia, where the doctor was very friendly and had no airs about him. He explained everything patiently and in detail in layman’s terms so that we could fully understand and accept my uncle’s condition,” she said. (Reyhan Fabiano)

The Jakarta Post, July 31, 2008

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