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Malaysia reopens borders partially to medical travelers

Jessicha Valentina
Jessicha Valentina

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Tue, July 21, 2020  /  09:30 am
Malaysia reopens borders partially to medical travelers

Malaysia was among the most popular medical destinations for Indonesians in the pre-coronavirus days. (Shutterstock/Gecko Studio)

Malaysia has reopened its borders partially to medical tourists, the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC) stated in a virtual media briefing on Friday.

The organization’s chief commercial officer Nik Yazmin Nik Azman said that it had allowed Indonesian patients to enter Malaysia, starting on July 1. However, they will need to comply with several conditions.

In the new standard operating procedure, medical tourists will need to obtain an approval letter and undergo a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test for COVID-19.

MHTC vice president of facilitation Norhaslina Othman said it had received inquiries from foreign patients since Malaysia imposed the Movement Control Order (MCO) in mid-March, following the COVID-19 outbreak.

As the country is now in Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO), the Malaysian government has allowed more activities to resume, including medical tourism. 

Norhaslina explained that the Malaysian healthcare system was entering Phase 1, where only medical tourists with critical health problems, including those hailing from Indonesia, may apply for entry to Malaysia during the RMCO period through the MHTC, adding that only MHTC member hospitals were allowed to receive foreign patients.

“An appointment letter from any MHTC member hospital called the Malaysia Medical Care Entrance Permit will be issued for patients effective July 1,” she added.

“Phase 1 itself is divided further into two categories, namely categories 1A and 1B. Category 1A refers to patients who require treatment at intensive care units [ICUs] and have been referred by a hospital. Category 1B patients are those with critical health problems such as cancer, heart disease and other conditions,” she said.

To get the permit, patients will need to make an appointment with the assigned hospital and submit all the necessary documents. Currently, several hospitals in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Melaka, Penang, Sarawak and Johor Bahru are ready to welcome foreign patients.

Doctors at the hospitals will review the condition and write a letter to the MHTC. The organization will continue to work with Malaysian immigration to issue the Malaysia Medical Care Entrance Permit. 

Read also: Indonesia's medical tourism potential may be silver lining of pandemic

Once patients receive the permit, they can travel to Malaysia by chartered flights, air ambulance or private jet. At the moment, medical tourists are not allowed to use commercial flights or land or sea transportation to enter the country.

Moreover, only one caretaker is allowed for each patient, while patients aged 12 and below are allowed to have two caretakers.

It is mandatory for the patient and their caretakers to take PCR tests three days before arriving in Malaysia.

Norhaslina also suggested that patients and caretakers download the MySejahtera application prior to flying to Malaysia.

Norhaslina said a MHTC representative would assist the patients and caretakers when they arrived in Malaysia. They will need to take another PCR test in the hospital on the arrival day and enter 14-day isolation. On the 13th day, they will need to take another PCR test before going back to their home country.

Norhaslina said the estimated cost for the 14-day isolation and PCR tests for both patient and caretaker would be around RM 6,000 (US$1,408).

“During the isolation, they can’t leave the hospital room,” she added.

Yazmin said that the Phase 1 was not meant for patients who wanted to undergo medical check-ups in Malaysia, as the cost was too high.

Norhaslina added that some of MHTC hospital members also provided teleconsultations.

“It’s not a consultation per se, more like a second opinion [or] advisory as the doctors cannot physically examine the patients,” she said.

Malaysia was among the most popular medical destinations for Indonesians in the pre-coronavirus days. The Star reported that Malaysia welcomed over 1.2 million medical tourists in 2018 and 56 percent of them were Indonesians. More than half of Indonesian patients reportedly sought medical treatment in Penang. (wng)

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