Malaysia targets patients from New Zealand; local doctors express dissatisfaction

 

The Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council is targeting New Zealanders for low-cost cosmetic and dental surgery packages.

In 2014, 2,000 New Zealanders travelled to Malaysia for cosmetic and dental procedures, and weight loss surgery. MHTC is working with medical tourism and travel agents based in New Zealand to create more awareness about Malaysian healthcare. The modest target for 2015 is a 10% increase in numbers.

The higher profile has attracted some critics, particularly when MHTC offered a free makeover holiday at an exhibition.

Sally Langley of the New Zealand Association of Plastic Surgeons, has described the marketing push, ‘It is ethically unacceptable. Going to Malaysia has safety issues, with patients putting themselves at risk by getting on long-haul flights immediately before and after the surgery.’ Local surgeons also claim that the New Zealand taxpayer bears the brunt of botched overseas jobs. Between 2010 and 2014, the authorities had 178 treatment injury claims from New Zealanders who had procedures done overseas. 81 claims were accepted, costing taxpayers $542,000.

While Thailand was still more popular with New Zealanders as it is seen as cheaper, Malaysia is a growing market, with increased reports of unsatisfactory surgery in Thailand.

The local medical industry in Australia and New Zealand is hugely defensive on local care and very aggressive in attacking medical tourism to Malaysia and Thailand. There are regular complaints about unqualified surgeons, botched surgery, and poor after care. Claims of how many locals they have to treat for repair work after medical tourism have to be taken with care in the context that it dislikes medical tourism in principle.

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