Dr. Ashok Philip, President of the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) has urged the healthcare sector to improve services.

In giving the go to medical tourism, Malaysian Medical Association president Dr Ashok Philip said the healthcare sector should keep improving its services to meet patients’ needs.

He said the Malaysian Society was accrediting more medical centers in the private sector for Quality in Healthcare and the Joint Commission International.

“Because of that, foreign patients have a fair amount of confidence,” he said in a telephone interview.

He was responding to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s announcement on Tuesday about making medical tourism a priority for Malaysia.

Malaysia had 770,000 medical tourists last year, bringing in around RM700mil in revenue.

The figures are expected to rise to 930,000, with estimated revenue of RM1bil, he said.

Dr. Ashok said the country was attracting medical tourists in a big way and had many returning customers, especially from Indonesia.

Asked if medical tourism might worsen the talent exodus in public healthcare, Dr Ashok agreed that private hospitals generally roped in more specialists from the public sector, and for this reason, the Health Ministry encouraged more doctors to consider alternatives to obtain their Master’s degrees.

However, Fomca secretary-general Datuk Paul Selvaraj is worried that the private sector would keep drawing specialists from the public sector due to the increasing demand from medical tourism and this would cause a longer waiting period for patients there.

“The focus should be on improving healthcare for Malaysians first,” he said.