The Malaysian healthcare system has been the envy of many developing and developed countries. In a World Health Organisation report, a healthcare facility is available generally within 10 km of wherever you are in urban Malaysia. It is worthwhile to know too that there is a dual system of delivery, the private and the public sectors, each having staff and equipment which are up-to-date but largely independent of each other.
In case of any emergency, a prudent thing to do is to walk in to any of the private medical clinics that are liberally found in most streets. Staff are mostly English-speaking and will be able to assist. Some of these primary-care clinics are open 24 hours a day and such clinics are clearly marked with the figure ‘24’. This is a real bonus for visitors, where ailments can come at odd hours of the night. A consultation with the doctor plus medications (usually supplied in-house, thus saving a trip to the pharmacy) should not cost more than 100 ringgit, but be prepared to pay out-of-pocket as most do not accept third-party payers who issue health-cards.
What about a major emergency? You can either call an ambulance by dialing ‘999’ or , on a mobile phone, ‘112’. To avoid delays, it may sometimes be best to try to get to the nearest hospital, be it public or private, on your own. They all have round-the-clock emergency service that will be able to render immediate treatment. These emergency centres work on a triage system, which means that people are seen in order of how severely ill they are. So if you have a flu, chances are you will have to give way to someone who broke his leg, even though you were first in line. Once the patient’s condition is stabilized, you might want to make a request for transfer to a private hospital if you are covered by private insurance such as BUPA, AIU or the like as many of these private hospitals are on the panels of private health insurance companies which will guarantee payment on your behalf. A word of advice: please check in advance before requesting for a transfer. For one thing, you have to make sure there is an unoccupied bed available when you arrive!
The quality of medical care is excellent in Malaysia. Being a former British colony, medical training is according to British standards with the medical specialists almost all having received training abroad in countries like the UK, US and Australia. Because of multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious nature of Malaysia, a wide variety of languages are spoken, including Mandarin and Arabic; so chances are, effective communication is not going to be a major issue.
Lost a contact lens? No problem, just walk in to any one of optometrist shops and get a replacement. Australians and most Europeans would appreciate this as they do not have to see an eye specialist first to get a prescription before buying a replacement.
Got a toothache? Just get to the nearest private dental surgeon and an immediate appointment can be given. The charges are very reasonable compared to Western clinics and the results are as good. In fact, more and more visitors from the Middle East and Europe are finding to their delight that the cost and standard of treatment are excellent, be it a root-canal therapy or dental implant.
At the end of the day, the age-old maxim of ‘prevention is better than cure’ applies. Pipe- water is generally safe to drink but settle for the ubiquitous bottle of mineral water if you must as they cost only US 25 cents a bottle. You will need plenty though, as the warm humid weather leads to dehydration quite easily. Mosquitoes are omni-present especially following rainy weather and some form of repellent would be advisable especially if a lot of time is going to be spent outdoors. As in most things, the rule of common-sense applies. But as someone said, the trouble with common-sense is that it is not common!
Do enjoy your stay in Malaysia, now that you know that the healthcare facilities are excellent and should you unfortunately come down with an ailment, ready help is at hand at all times!