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Expat healthcare in Malaysia
An introduction to expat life and health in Malaysia
Malaysia has become an increasingly popular country for expats, open to foreign investment and international business, but how do arrivals in the country access local healthcare?
Situated in Southeast Asia, Malaysia borders Thailand to the north, and the Indonesian island of Kalimantan to the south. The total population is approximately 30 million, with the predominant ethnic groupings being Malay (50%), Chinese (23%), and indigenous (12%). Expatriates and non-citizen residents comprise about 10% of the population. This is a higher ratio of expatriates to total population than is found in Thailand, China, Hong Kong, and Indonesia.
Since 1981, Malaysia has become an economic powerhouse. Under Mahathir bin Mohamad’s premiership, Malaysia escaped the traditional dependence on raw material exports. Instead, it has developed reliable and high-performing manufacturing and service industries. Since Mohamad Najib bin Abdul Razak assumed the position of prime minister in 2009, his government has introduced legislation geared towards business and civil reform, while it is also working towards improving the standard of public healthcare in Malaysia.
Kuala Lumpur, the capital, is a popular city for business and tourism, while Putrajaya, the largest city in Malaysia and the country’s administrative hub, is emerging as one of the most important tech cities in Southeast Asia. In the 21st century, Malaysia is certainly living up to its nickname of Suvarnabhumi, which means ‘Land of Gold’.
Understanding healthcare in Malaysia
Public health, hospitals and healthcare in Malaysia come under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Health. Health and wellbeing are considered an important part of public life, with the Ministry of Health maintaining an effective universal healthcare system, based on the model of the NHS in the United Kingdom.
In fact, the government invests around 5% of the total budget for social development into the universal healthcare system. Standards of treatment and healthcare in Malaysia are relatively strong, with high-quality medical equipment and facilities available at most hospitals in the major Malaysian cities. Following their medical training, all doctors in Malaysia are required to complete a three-year residency in a public hospital. This means that hospitals in the major cities are usually well-staffed with highly trained medical professionals.
The Ministry of Health has demonstrated a commitment to innovation. For instance, the Ministry is exploring telehealth as a solution to public health in rural and remote areas of Malaysia, a phenomenon also in vogue in several Western countries.
As in many Asian countries, a private sector for healthcare in Malaysia operates alongside the universal healthcare system. While treatment can be expensive and medical facilities may demand payment upfront, patients in private hospitals won’t have to wait for access to a doctor. Patients will also often deal with English-speaking doctors who hold western medical qualifications. Private healthcare in Malaysia often boasts access to the latest diagnostic technologies and medical treatments.
Where to find the best healthcare in Malaysia
The best healthcare and medical professionals in Malaysia are concentrated in the main urban areas (Kuala Lumpur, Sungai Petani, Sandakan, and Bintulu). This will suit most expats, who tend to live and work in the larger cities.
Expats insured by a good health insurance plan can choose where they seek their healthcare in Malaysia. This includes both public hospitals and private medical facilities, whether in the large cities or in remote areas.
There are a number of private hospitals and medical facilities in Malaysia with consistently high standards:
- Prince Court Medical Centre (Kuala Lumpur)
- Gleneagles Healthcare Facility (Kuala Lumpur)
- Pantai Hospital (Kuala Lumpur)
- Subang Jaya Medical Centre (Selangor)
- Tropicana Medical Centre (Selangor)
- KPJ Damansara Specialist Hospital (Selangor)
There are also a number of public hospitals available as part of universal healthcare in Malaysia, where expat customers can also seek treatment depending on their insurance policy. Some of these are listed below:
- Hospital Bahagia Ulu Kinta (Perak)
- Hospital Bintulu (Bintulu)
- Hospital Duchess of Kent (Sandakan)
- Hospital Ampang (Selangor)
- Hospital Kuala Lumpur (Kuala Lumpur)
The above is a selection of the facilities in Malaysia; other hospitals and clinics are available.