KUCHING, August 10: Private hospitals can brace for a surge in foreign patients seeking medical treatment in the state once Sarawak’s first low-cost carrier terminal (LCCT) is completed.
Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg said the bulk of the state’s health tourism currently are patients from Pontianak, West Kalimantan, who travelled via Indonesia’s airline Xpress Air.
The airline often records full passengers in its inbound and outbound flights in the Kuching sector, he added.
“Xpress Air is also dubbed the ‘ambulance’ because it is always full of patients flying from Pontianak seeking medical treatment in Kuching. The flights are always full coming in and out of Kuching,” Abang Johari said at Normah Medical Specialist Centre’s 30th Anniversary dinner here on Friday.
The chief minister revealed that he had recently met with AirAsia’s top management and was told that the airline was working on a direct Kuching-Jakarta flight. When this materialised in the future, Sarawak should expect more Indonesians coming to Kuching seeking medical treatment, as it is is only a little more than an hour’s flight from Jakarta.
“On top of that, AirAsia also told me that once our LCCT is completed in the future, the airline will work on connecting more air routes between Kuching and Indonesia.
“This means that for medical tourism, you (Normah) will get opportunities but you have to promote yourself in order to cater for the Indonesian patients seeking medical treatment here,” Abang Johari said.
AirAsia, through its group chief executive officer Tan Sri Tony Fernandes, announced in February this year that between RM200 million and RM300 million would be needed to set up an LCCT in Kuching, which is planned to be located near the Kuching International Airport.
No specific timeline has been given on when the project will take off but Tony assured that AirAsia was ready to commence as soon as the state government gave the green light.
On a similar note, Abang Johari said the state government was more than willing to invest in any expansion plans for Normah to develop its medical facilities and enhance Sarawak’s medical services to be top class.
“You (Normah) can be an example hospital that provides good (medical) facility and I don’t mind for the state government to invest in that. Once you have the facility, then there is no need for us to go overseas to seek advanced medical treatment,” he said.
This, in turn, would boost Sarawak’s medical tourism sector and indirectly boost the state’s economy, he continued. — DayakDaily