Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Cheap...or inexpensive? You choose 

I last returned to Kuala Lumpur from Singapore on 31 March. Getting off the bus, I was pushed by a guy behind me who thought I was moving too slowly. Banging my head against the doorframe, I woke up a few moments later to find both my laptops still with me (thank God by whatever name you call Him) but my wallet a few hundred ringgit lighter. I also had injured my right arm; two ligaments and the rotator cuff.

Thus began an interesting odyssey. Malaysia is trying to build itself an image as a destination for medical tourism; they have excellent facilities and medical professionals here at what, by First World standards, are extremely reasonable prices. A North American or European contemplating major non-emergency surgery would likely find as good medical service here for lower cost, even considering the additional travel expenses.

This does not hold true, of course, for local Malaysians, or for foreigners such as I who are living as locals (no expat package, no seven-figure salary, no chaffeur-driven Mercedes, etc...). There is a decent basic medical service here, and top-tier service is available for those with the means to pay. In my case, I had an orthopaedic surgeon estimate the cost of repairing my arm as being at least 12,000 Malaysian ringgit (or about 2,440 Euros). This is approximately what it costs me to live for four months here; I don't have that kind of money available. I have started looking at less expensive options, including the anybody-serviced three-tier public hospitals. I haven't found a place yet that both inspires confidence in the abilities of its medical practitioners and is sufficiently less expensive to justify the perceived risk of dealing with a new set of doctors.

Any good local advice would be greatly appreciated.

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