Malaysia’s medical tourism and its challenges Traditionally, Tourism industry has been considered as people travel for recreational, leisure or business purposes. Travel as a relaxant is always a rigid classification for tourism industry when people talk about it. However, recently the new phenomenon is that, there are steep rise of people who travel and seek for medical treatment. This is so call “Medical Tourism”. A considerable amount of traveler is taking a trip for the purposes of medical concerns.
Medical Tourism, also known as “health tourism” or “medical travel”, can be defined as the process of obtaining a range of health care services in various countries in the journey travel. Traveling overseas for healthcare services is an ongoing trend for the elites of developing nation. Malaysia which honored as one of the “Asian tigers” is also not an exemption. Malaysia as a developing country that anticipated and participated in this new emerging market of medical tourism has become a forerunner in this industry.
It is not an unfamiliar and inexperienced industry in the context of Malaysian development. It has become the most emerging element of Malaysian tourism industry due to the nation’s superiority in healthcare services, favorable medical performance and also professional and well-trained of its medical staff. Furthermore, Malaysia with its unique background and cultural setting such as multi-cultural, multi-ethics and multi-lingual simply fits the requirement for international medical tourism patient seek for medical services who wishes no hindrance, for instance, in language spoken.
Malaysia as a former British colony, English is spoken everywhere. Nevertheless, Malaysian is in a favorable condition where exchange rate is attractive in comparison to those developed nation, such as United States and United Kingdom. It makes the healthcare services more eye-catching in terms of medical bill. Another from this, Malaysia government also implemented a number of project and establishment of national goal that aim to become a future international medical tourism center.
Healthcare services in Malaysia have been wrapping as a commodity and promote to global in the process of commoditization. There are several challenges faces in the medical tourism. Like every other area of human activity the current global economic melt down imposes great challenges on Medical Tourism. In the first place, the financial resources available for injection into Medical Tourism would face stiffer competition from other sectors of the global economy like food security, energy demands, infrastructural development etc.
The impending rise in cost of international travel is a major setback for global healthcare. The situation is aggravated by the crumbling of many organizations and attendant job losses, which translate to erosion of contributory healthcare funds and drastic reduction in global health care patronage. The fall in the value of currencies of many countries as a result of the economic meltdown is another major challenge of Medical Tourism worldwide.
Existing comparative advantages in the cost of obtaining healthcare services are being dismantled by falling currencies and this would discourage traveling overseas for medical attention. In a place like Nigeria, perhaps the greatest challenge to tourism in general is security. The global depression is likely to pose security challenges and this would naturally impact negatively on the Tourism industry in general and Medical Tourism in particular.
The depression may also make people become more selective in cases for which they seek medical attention abroad (not life threatening. There may be reductions in procedures like cosmetic surgery, for instance and other forms of not too serious medical problems. Research aimed at the development of herbal remedies may also be adversely affected by financial constraints associated with the current depression. Here are also the issues of terrorism to which many tourists have become victims recently.
Countries that have the propensity for terrorism do not have anything to contribute to medical tourism, for obvious reasons. The economic meltdown with its attendant belt-tightening, has to a great extent forced most governments to adopt the policy of lean government and reduction in perquisites normally accrued to government officials. Some of these personnel policies also affect medical subside amongst others. The economic meltdown will compel many Governments in the world to look for ways and means of curbing waste and improving the welfare of their people.
This should turn out good for Medical Tourism if some of the saved funds are channeled into social programme like health care, job security measures, social security, transport subsidies etc. In this regard we call upon the different tiers of Government in our country to dedicate a large proportion of the funds realized from the 10% reduction in the salaries of political office holders towards improving basic infrastructure in the Health Sector and the provision of important equipment in specialist areas like kidney transplant, cancer treatment/management, liver transplant, heart transplant etc.