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Sabah Health Tourism Council mooted to propel health tourism: Liew

KOTA KINABALU: Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Christina Liew has proposed that a special body in the form of Sabah Health Tourism Council (SHTC) be set up under the purview of the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment to propel the development of health tourism in the State.

She made the proposal during a courtesy call on her by Medisinar Managing Director Dr Anil Kumar, Vice-President of the Commonwealth Pharmacists Association, Datuk Nancy Ho and tourism player Peter N.F. Chin.

Liew (seated 3rd from left), flanked by William (2nd left) and Dr Anil, with Bobby (left), Nancy (2nd right) and Peter (right). SNT Pix/Credit Tourism Ministry

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

Liew, who is also Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment, said the proposed medical tourism shall include medical treatment and wellness services such as spa therapy for getaway tourists to Sabah.

At the same time, she made it clear that her Ministry will act as an advisory body to the Council once it is established.

“We discussed the bright prospects of developing Sabah as a health tourism destination. The role of the proposed Sabah Health Tourism Council is to formulate policies on health care to regulate and promote the health tourism industry as well as to facilitate and 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.

As a preparatory step, the Ministry through the Sabah Tourism Board (STB) will convene a meeting with Tourism Malaysia and private hospitals in Sabah in due course.

Liew has also requested STB to initiate an analytical study on the possibility of setting up the SHTC by collecting relevant data from private hospitals in the State.

Briefing the Minister on Medical/Health Tourism – Time to Begin, Dr Anil, a former Acting State Deputy Director of Health, listed out the advantages of health tourism in Sabah.

  • Low-cost medical treatments
  • High-quality healthcare system in private medical centres
  • Reputable medical specialists
  • Accessibility in terms of reasonable travel time in hours by air to Sabah from the East Asia and Western Pacific regions.

In his presentation, Dr Anil said Medical/Health Tourism comprises five components, namely travel to another state or country to seek medical treatment; seek healthy activities (examples, sun and beach, FAT farms for the purpose of losing weight; adventure and sports tourism; travel to a different climate (silver-haired programme); and sauna massage & spa.

“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,” he added.

According to Dr Anil, Malaysia is one of ASEAN’s top three Medical Tourism destinations (the others being Singapore and Thailand), and aims to achieve RM2.8 billion in medical tourism revenue in 2020.

In this respect, the top 10 tourist generating markets to Malaysia for medical tourism alone are : Singapore, Indonesia, China, Thailand, Brunei, India, South Korea, Philippines, Japan and the United Kingdom.

Meanwhile, Ho said Sabah has the potential to be a medical tourism destination, given the availability of private hospitals with world-class treatment facilities, and award-winning spa centres.

“As a health professional, I am very keen to push for Sabah to be in the forefront of medical tourism in the region. With a proactive tourism minister at the helm, I hope the government will duly consider our proposition,” she said.

Also present were the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary, William Baya and STB Marketing Manager, Bobby Alex.-SabahNewsToday