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Medical tourism to grow

PUTRAJAYA: With Malaysia making its mark as an affordable and sophisticated healthcare hub, the Health Ministry is aiming to attract more than 437,000 tourists to experience what the local healthcare industry has to offer.

Deputy Health Minister Datuk Rosnah Abdul Rashid Shirlin said the sector would generate an income of about RM431 million (S$176.9 million) this year.

The number of healthcare travellers seeking medical care in the country last year stood at 392,956.

Between January and March this year, the number of tourists seeking medical care was 112,951 generating an income totalling RM105 million.

The number of such tourist arrivals almost doubled for the same period last year.

For the whole of last year, the sector made about RM379 million.

Rosnah told the New Straits Times that the rising trend was an indication that the number of tourists arriving in Malaysia for medical care would increase this year.

To further boost the healthcare travel industry, the Malaysian Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC) would bring significant players to galvanise efforts to drive the industry to a higher level.

Asked about the benchmark set for medical payments charged by private hospitals, Rosnah said that medical fees were regulated by a fee schedule set by the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) and the ministry.

"There is also a single paying system whereby any healthcare traveller coming to Malaysia for treatment will be charged the same fees as any Malaysian would as there is no double standards in terms of pricing," Rosnah said, adding that among the comparative advantages the country had was the competitive costs of care and a favourable exchange rate.

Rosnah also said private hospitals were encouraged to expand their capacity in support of promoting the nation as a healthcare travel hub of choice.

As an incentive, the government would provide tax exemptions equivalent to 100 per cent of qualifying capital expenditure incurred for the construction of new hospitals or for the modernisation or expansion of existing hospitals in the country.

Healthcare travel is a global phenomenon with the industry anticipated to attain a 35 per cent growth in the coming years.

Research conducted by Frost and Sullivan in 2008, indicated that the global healthcare travel market would reach between US$40 billion (S$49.3 billion) and US$60 billion by next year.

Source asiaone