Medical tourism as green bubble precursor to reopening borders, says private hospitals association


PETALING JAYA: The green bubble concept for the medical tourism sector should be created as a precursor to the opening of borders to foreign tourists, said Datuk Dr Kuljit Singh.

"Green bubbles for medical tourists are safe and regulated. They could be the first to start before the reopening of the tourism sector," the Association of Private Hospitals Malaysia president said during the virtual National Recovery Summit on Thursday (Sept 9).

He said the move would build foreign investor confidence into returning to the country.

"This can be seen from neighbouring countries which have placed emphasis on the sector," he added.

He noted that present regulations to allow in medical tourists were too restrictive and included patients having to charter special flights for the purpose.

He said the medical tourism sector generated close to RM1bil in revenue in 2019 and was expected to increase last year but was affected due the onset of the global pandemic last year.

Meanwhile, the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers proposed that there should be uniform standard operating procedures (SOP) for all economic sectors to reopen.

"All sectors of the economy should be reopened and under one single phase.

"Approval letters should also be done away with but based on vaccination rate and reliance on digital vaccination certification. There should also be a standard SOP," its president Tan Sri Soh Thian Lai said.

He lamented that the lack of uniform SOPs would be a hindrance in putting the nation's economy back on the right track of recovery during the post pandemic period.

"The SOP must have credibility, consistency, clarity and certainty. No more U-turns or shifting of the goal posts," he added.

He noted that feasible government policies should also be in sync with the needs of the private sector.

He said that prolonged restrictions and closing of businesses would eventually result in negative impact on the sustainability of certain sectors.

However, Soh acknowledged the move to allow essential services to operate during the pandemic resulted in improvement in the economy.

"For example, the manufacturing sector saw positive growth of 3% for the first quarter of 2020 and continued to grow to 6% in the same period this year.

"The second quarter of this year saw 26.6% growth and we have yet to see the figures for the third quarter," he said.

Soh also dispelled public misconception that factory and workplace clusters had contributed to the high number of cases.

He said that cases of infections were brought into the workplace and factories rather than originating from them as clusters.

As of Sept 7, Soh said that a total of 935,123 employees received their first vaccine dose under Partnership Covid-19 Industry Immunisation Programme, while over 722,000 have completed their vaccination.

Meanwhile, Health Ministry's deputy director-general (research and technical support) Datuk Dr Hishamshah Mohd Ibrahim said the ministry is looking towards the use of technology and innovation during the post pandemic recovery period.

He said this includes the use of locally manufactured tracking devices for non-life threatening Covid-19 patients who are placed under home quarantine.

"We are currently trying out the locally made devices to keep track of the movement of individuals in a particular location," he said.

Dr Hishamshah, who represented Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, said the ministry is also looking at expanding cooperation with the private healthcare sector to help administer booster vaccine shots if it is necessary in the future.

They were among the panellists invited to present their views at the summit which was jointly organised by the National Recovery Council, Economic Club of Kuala Lumpur (ECKL) and the KSI Strategic Institute for Asia Pacific.

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