Inspired by a steady rise in the number of Bangladeshis seeking healthcare in Malaysia, the Southeast Asian nation is eying Bangladesh as a lucrative market for its internationally accredited hospitals.
The number of such patients from Bangladesh going to Malaysia doubled to around 20,000 in 2015 over the last five years.
“We are expecting annually 25,000 to 30,000 patients [from Bangladesh] in the next two years,” Kavitha Mathuvay, regional director of market development at the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC), told a team of journalists during their visit to Kuala Lumpur from December 7 to December 10.
Most of these patients seek treatment for cardiac and orthopaedic problems, according to the MHTC, an agency working under the Malaysian health ministry to promote medical tourism.
Several lakh Bangladeshis travel overseas for treatment every year, but most of them visit India, Singapore, and Thailand.
MHTC officials said they want to get a share of these patients in Malaysia, as treatment cost there is 30 to 40 percent less than that of in Singapore and Thailand as well as healthcare quality is of high standard in at least 68 internationally accredited private hospitals in Malaysia.
“Being geographically close, it is feasible for us to treat critical cases like heart surgeries and cancer treatment,” Kavitha Mathuvay said.
Besides, some three lakh tourists from Bangladesh visit Malaysia every year and they could take advantage of half-day health check-up in the morning and consultation in the afternoon, she said.
For that, the hospitals offer packages of health screening for three days and two nights in the weekends. They also have five-day packages, Kavitha said.
For a critical patient, she said, there is always a fear of travelling. “If a doctor says that a surgery is needed, we always want to hear from a second or a third doctor.”
She added that they were providing the second or third opinion service to the Bangladeshis in Bangladesh.
“We send our doctors to Bangladesh so that patients there can bring the medical records and meet our doctors for the next course of action. It is not an obligation that if they see Malaysian doctors, they have to come to Malaysia. If you have the service at your home country, have it there,” she said.
However, if a patient is willing to travel, the MHTC will support his or her treatment in Malaysia.
The MHTC also works through its representative in Bangladesh -- GD Assist, a subsidiary of Green Delta Insurance Company (GDIC).
“Currently, we also have an insurance product [provided by the GDIC] which offers medical treatment in Malaysia,” Kavitha said.
The MHTC has been working with Malaysia Airlines which gives 30 percent discount to the Bangladeshi patients and their family members flying in to Malaysia for treatment.
The agency is also in discussion with Biman Bangladesh Airlines to find ways to work together for providing a better service to the people travelling to Malaysia for treatment.
Zalifah Yasmin Ibrahim, corporate executive at the KPJ Healthcare Berhard in Kuala Lumpur, said Bangladesh and Malaysia have many similarities, including weather and halal food.
“So, Bangladeshi people travelling to Malaysia would not find it difficult to stay and get treatment,” she said.
Dr Kumara Gurupparan Ganesan, cardiologist at the National Heart Institute in Kuala Lumpur, said the hospital has state-of-the-art technologies to treat cardiac patients.
Drawn by the facilities, many Bangladeshis are now coming to this hospital for cardiac treatments, he said, adding that some Bangladeshi doctors are also working there.