Capitalizing on its Western-trained medics and a favorable exchange rate (neighboring Singapore's treatments cost twice as much), Malaysia's wards now proffer everything from laparoscopic surgery to liposuction. And patients are flocking: the Association of Private Hospitals of Malaysia (APHM) claims that in 2002 nearly 85,000 medical tourists checked themselves in to Malaysian clinics, mostly from Indonesia and other Asian countries but also many from Europe. "We're multicultural and multilingual," says the association's Datuk Dr. Ridzwan Bakar. "And we're the most competitively priced country in the Asia-Pacific region, bar India."
Malaysia's other major selling point is its ability to perform difficult treatments. Among the most popularly requested operations are cardiac bypass surgery—the National Heart Institute is a leading center in the region—and fertility treatments, with the country's premier Damansara Fertility Centre claiming in vitro success rates that match top U.S. clinics'.
Medical standards may vary greatly from facility to facility, however. Quality control and data collection are sometimes patchy, and some malpractice investigations have dragged on for more than five years. "APHM is pushing for better transparency," concedes Ridzwan.
Pantai Medical Centre, Kuala Lumpur
Posh patients can enjoy deluxe accommodation at Pantai's Royal and Premier Suites. This includes the services of a bow-tied butler, satellite TV and digs more Regent Hotel than recovery room. Some even have a one-way mirror for your personal security guard to check up on you.
Mahkota Medical Centre, Melaka
This 356-bed hospital offers homely hostel rooms in the same block for visiting family members. The center's specialties include affordable caesarean delivery and open-heart surgery. Outpatients might want to consider Mahkota's three-day/two-night health-screening packages, which include tours of the historic town and even transportion to a local golf course.
Beautiful Holidays, Penang
Marketed to Europeans through the Internet, Beautiful Holidays (beautiful-holidays.com) is a tour company providing plastic-surgery packages in conjunction with the Loh Guan Lye Centre, a 25-year-old private hospital in Penang. The most popularly requested operations: liposuction and tummy tucks. "Our customers enjoy the anonymity," says Marloes Giezenaar, Beautiful Holidays' managing director. "They fly in, recuperate around the pool, and fly out again without anyone noticing they've been under the knife." The company can also arrange postsurgery tours of Penang.
Country Heights Medical Tourism (CHMT), Kuala Lumpur
The country's only medical screening center within a five-star resort, CHMT offers patients a battery of diagnostic tests (including fluoroscopy and abdominal ultrasounds) and the results five hours later. Pass the time by taking a water taxi to the neighboring Mines Shopping Fair for a bout of retail therapy.