Malaysia’s visa change is a boost for healthcare tourism


KUALA LUMPUR: Foreign patients entering Malaysia for medical treatment on emergency “visas-on-arrival” (VOAs) will be allowed to convert their entry status to a social visit pass in an effort to promote healthcare travel.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said the patients would be able to do so on the recommendation of private hospitals registered under the Health Ministry.

“To facilitate the smooth arrival, stay and departure of medical tourists, the Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board (CVLB) will issue permits to hospitals registered under the ministry to allow them to ferry patients and accompanying persons to and from the airport and hospital or hotel,” he announced when launching the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council at the Putra World Trade Centre here Monday.

He said the approval for extension of stay for medical tourists at the state level would also be sped up.

“I believe that the efforts to develop a world-class healthcare industry in the country will also help to reverse the serious brain drain of Malaysian medical professionals,” Najib said.

He said that non-Malaysian spouses of local medical specialists would be automatically offered an employment or professional pass if they qualify as a professional under the Malaysian Classification of Occupation.

“This is to encourage more Malaysians or non-Malaysian specialists to return from abroad to serve in local hospitals,” he said.

To encourage private hospitals to improve their services, he also announced that the expenses incurred to obtain domestic and internationally recognised accreditation would be eligible for a double deduction incentive under the Income Tax Act 1967 starting next year.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai, who was also present, revealed that there was a 13% reduction in the number of foreign patients in the first half of this year compared with the corresponding period last year.

“But in terms of revenue per patient, we see a growth of 12% from RM769 to RM862. The challenge now is to return to positive growth as the global economy improves and to increase the revenue for each patient,” he said.

Liow also assured the public that the effort to encourage the arrival of more health tourists would not cause overcrowding and jeopardise the quality of service in hospitals.