After silent arrival of Indonesian patients, Penang demands regular updates from medical tourism outfits

Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow speaks during a press conference at Komtar in George Town August 14, 2020. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow speaks during a press conference at Komtar in George Town August 14, 2020. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

GEORGE TOWN, Aug 17 — It is now compulsory for all agencies involved in the medical tourism sector to keep the state government informed on developments in the sector, said Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow.

The Penang lawmaker said this was so the state government has current information that was necessary to effectively manage the sector.

Chow chaired an emergency meeting this morning following public uproar over the recent arrival of Indonesian patients into Penang on a chartered flight under the medical tourism sector.

“We highly regret that we were not informed at all regarding the sudden arrival of the patients into Penang,” he said in a statement issued today.

He said the Health Ministry was now updating the standard operating procedures (SOP) for the medical tourism sector.

“Therefore, the state government wishes to reiterate our stand not to allow any medical tourists to come into our state until the ministry has finalised its new SOPs especially during this period when Penang still has active Covid-19 cases,” he said.

He added that the state secretary was instructed to hold a multi-agency technical meeting this afternoon to manage the medical tourism issue.

He said the relevant agencies had explained that the three patients, two of whom were cancer patients, needed immediate medical attention and had arrived in Penang on a chartered flight on August 14 in compliance with the federal government’s guidelines.

He said the patients complied with SOPs fixed by the federal government including the Immigration Department and Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC).

The meeting Chow chaired was attended by tourism exco Yeoh Soon Hin, state secretary Datuk Abdul Razak Jaafar, state health department director Dr Asmayani Khalib and state national security council director Nazrul Fazami Mohamad.

Last week, low-cost carrier AirAsia, on its website announced its medical charter flight services with its first flight from Medan into Penang International Airport on August 14.

The airline stated that the charter service will be expanded to other cities in Indonesia.

AirAsia.com chief executive officer Karen Chan said the next medical charter flight from Indonesia will be from Jakarta to Kuala Lumpur on August 24.

She also said AirAsia “will continue to work with strategic partners like Island Hospital in Penang, and with the full support of Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council”.

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