Plan for special council to propel health tourism in Sabah

Deputy Chief Minister Christina Liew (3rd from left) in a discussion with Commonwealth Pharmacists Association vice-president Dr Anil Kumar (4th from left) and several others in Kota Kinabalu today.

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Deputy Chief Minister Christina Liew plans to set up a Sabah Health Tourism Council (SHTC) under her tourism and culture ministry.

Liew said the SHTC would play a key role in enhancing medical tourism in the state.

She discussed the prospect of developing Sabah as a health tourism destination during a courtesy call by Commonwealth Pharmacists Association vice-president Dr Anil Kumar and several tourism players today.

“The role of the proposed SHTC would be to formulate policies, regulate and promote the health tourism industry as well as monitor its growth.

“The council, however, will not get involved in the provision of medical services as this will be left solely to participating private medical centres,” Liew added.

She made it clear that her ministry would act as an advisory body to the council once it is established.

Medical tourism is defined as providing some form of medical treatment while the person or family is on holiday.

Liew said the proposed medical tourism would include medical treatment and wellness services such as spa therapy for tourists.

As a preparatory step, the tourism, culture and environment ministry, through the Sabah Tourism Board, will convene a meeting with Tourism Malaysia and private hospitals in Sabah.

Meanwhile, Anil said: “We aim to make Sabah known as the number one destination for healthcare in the East Asia region by offering visitors a seamless experience with Sabah’s healthcare services.”

According to Anil, Malaysia is one of Asean’s top three medical tourism destinations, the others being Singapore and Thailand.

He said Malaysia aims to achieve RM2.8 billion in medical tourism revenue in 2020.

He said the advantages of health tourism in Sabah are: low-cost medical treatment, high-quality healthcare systems at private medical centres, reputable medical specialists, and accessibility in terms of reasonable travel time by air to Sabah from the East Asia and Western Pacific regions.

He added that the top 10 tourist generating markets to Malaysia for medical tourism are Singapore, Indonesia, China, Thailand, Brunei, India, South Korea, Philippines, Japan and the UK.