Source : Healthcare Malaysia Magazine 2010 by Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC)
Fertililty treatments in Malaysia as part of the country’s medical tourism initiatives and how they are helping couples around the world to achieve their dreams of having a baby. Fay Khoo reports.
Apart from being a widely sought¬ after tourist destination famed for its myriad natural, cultural, historical and gastronomic attractions, Malaysia is now also making its mark on the world map as a medical destination of choice.
Recently rated amongst the world’s top ﬁve medical tourism destinations by online investment news source Nuwire Investors (Malaysia was ranked third behind Panama and Brazil, and followed in fourth and ﬁfth place by Costa Rica and India), Malaysia’s appeal is understandable. Favoured by a balmy tropical climate, the country is further boosted by an English speaking population, and a comprehensive, sophisticated selection of medical services and procedures that is available at signiﬁcantly lower costs (and currency exchange rates) than developed nations, even when compared with neighbouring countries like Singapore.
One of the fastest growing sectors in Malaysia’s medical tourism initiative is the fertility market. As the human population becomes ever more career¬minded and results¬oriented, the institution of marriage has suﬀered a setback, with many men and women opting to delay marriage, and consequently childbirth, in favour of pursuing their chosen vocational dreams. As a result, ﬁrst time parents are now much older than they were just 20 years ago, with many couples suﬀering the consequences of decreased fertility thanks to their decision to postpone parenthood. Coupled with pollution, toxins and the other environmental hazards that the human constitution has to contend with on a daily basis, and it becomes increasingly apparent why fertility centres have ﬂourished in the last decade or so.
As part of Malaysia’s initiative to pro mote fertility treatment services within its ongoing medical tourism drive, fertility centres around the country now oﬀer a gamut of treatments to couples wanting to have babies. Procedures widely available in Malaysia are ovulation induction with timed intercourse (TIC), superovulation with intrauterine insemination (IUI), in vitro fertilization (IVF), intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), assisted hatching (AH), blastocyst transfer (BL) and embryo and sperm cryopreservation. Other treatments include sperm and egg donation (a service available only to non¬Muslims) gamete intra¬fallopian transfer (GIFT), zygote intra fallopian transfer (ZIFT) and frozen embryo transfer (FET).
Under Malaysia’s health tourism promotion, there are currently 35 hospitals around the country that have been earmarked to serve as suitable venues for medical tourists coming to the country. Many have their own fertility treatment centres. Gleneagles Intan Medical Centre in Ampang is one such example. Melbourne Fertility Services (MFS) Malaysia Fertility was founded as a joint venture between fertility specialist Dr. Jean Woo and Melbourne Fertility Services in Australia in 1993, and the centre services patients requiring fertility treatments who are referred there by specialists in Gleneagles. Damai Service Hospital also has its own fertility centre. Concept Fertility Centre Malaysia was founded — like MFS Malaysia-in association with an Australian enterprise, in this instance, Perth’s Concept Fertility Centre. Since it was established in 2002 and launched as a medical tourism partner in 2006, Concept has been treating patients from Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, UK, India and as far aﬁeld as Dubai, the Maldives, and even Tanzania. It estimates that ﬁve to eight percent of its patients are generated from medical tourism each year, with ﬁgures expected to rise proportionately as its reputation spreads.
The centre’s coordinator, Toh Lu Yee, attributes much of the centre’s popularity to its attention to client satisfaction and its world class services. Fertility packages are oﬀered to clients and include all medical expenses, accommodation, airport transfers and cycle planning at competitive prices. Medical and scientiﬁc support from the Australian team also help to enhance the patient’s overall experience during this challenging time. The personalized service oﬀered to its clients is amply evidenced by the volume of mail the centre receives from happy clients who have successfully conceived after treatments there.
One such patient, Mohammad Solah, from the Maldives, was familiar with Malaysia as he had spent some time here. Prior to deciding on Concept, he exhaustively researched his options, both in Malaysia and countries like Thailand and India. He eventually decided upon Malaysia and Concept primarily because he was reassured by the centre’s qualiﬁcations, track record and ties with an established Australian institution. Of his experience, Solah says that “the staﬀ and facilities were excellent, and I have recommended the centre to all my friends. We were very happy not just because the treatments were successful but we were also impressed by the quality of service that you extended to us.” Of the many fertility treatments available to patients in Malaysia, the most popular, according to Toh, are ovulation induction with timed intercourse (TIC), superovulation with intrauterine insemination (IUI), and in vitro fertilization (IVF) or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). TIC is widely chosen because it is the least invasive and cheapest, costing only RM150 (using Clomiphene Citrate) or RM800 (via recFSH injection) per treatment cycle. Nevertheless, patients have to be prepared for a low success rate of only 15 percent. IUI enjoys only a marginally higher success rate forecast of 15 to 20 per cent, with a slightly higher cost of RM1,500 per cycle of recFSH injections. IVF and ICSI enjoy the highest rates of success, but there are drawbacks: patients must be pre pared to spend considerable time and money when they opt for these treatments. An average cost per cycle for a 35year old woman casino online with moderate FSH levels ranges between RM12,500 to RM13,500 nett.
HIGH SUCCESS RATES
While many Malaysia fertility centres cite a healthy rate of success, the TMC Fertility Centre (previously known as the Damansara Fertility Centre) publishes its remarkable success rates on its website. The centre was ﬁrst established in 1994 in Kuala Lumpur but has since expanded around the country, providing customers with comprehensive fertility treatment hubs that oﬀer technologically advanced solutions for couples seeking assistance with infertility problems. In 2006, for its IVF treatment record, TMC enjoyed a 55.3 percent clinical pregnancy rate in embryo transfers, 46.1 percent pregnancy and delivery rate, with 75.2 percent of babies born or expected to be born that year, and an implantation rate of 35.4 percent. TMC’s success rates in 2007 for egg/oocyte donation were even more impressive: they achieved a clinical preg nancy rate of 64.3 percent for embryo transfers, a live birth rate of 54.3 percent, 78.6 percent of “take home” babies, and an implantation rate of 38.1 percent. The centre’s popularity as a medical tourism destination for infertile couples can be logically credited to its very high success rates and its aggressive marketing campaigns. Another contributing factor is its very competitive prices: the centre states that its rates are between 20 and 50 percent less than rival Singaporean centres for IVF procedures, and boasts customers from Russia, Libya and Germany, to Cambodia, Italy and the USA. Competitive prices aside, quality of services, infrastructure and the range of medical services provided are some of the key criteria which inﬂuence the patient when deciding which institution to go to for their fertility treatment.
According to Dr. Jean Woo of Gleneagles Intan hospital (and founder of the MFS fertility centre), quite often patients will not be successful the ﬁrst time they undergo fertility treatments. Consequently, many patients will do the rounds, trying diﬀerent centres, to ascertain the best and then re turn to the one they feel oﬀers the best services and gives them the best chances of conceiving.
Her centre is one of the most well respected and, although she is modest (“We are popular probably because we’ve been around the longest,” she says) the solid reputation of MFS is due in no small part to the consistent results they achieve, their considerable experience in the ﬁeld and not least because they are always fairly and competitively priced. Moreover, their dedi cation to their patients shows through in their assiduous follow ups after the patients have successfully conceived and returned to their home countries.
“We keep in touch with all our patients in order to check on their safety, especially when there are multiple births involved, and to monitor whether there are any congenital problems,” Dr. Woo said. If ongoing results are anything to go by medical tourist arrivals almost tripled upswing — then medical tourism in Malaysia looks set for a bright future. It is important to remember, however, that the competition from our regional neighbours is always stiﬀ, especially in countries (like Korea) which are already well advanced in terms of promoting their medical tourism industry, and there is much local medical practitioners can still do to further consolidate Malaysia’s position as a medical tourism destination on the world map. Nevertheless, Concept’s Dato’ Dr. Guna Sittampalam is quick to point out that there is much to recommend Malaysia as a leading medical tourism venue: “Malaysia has excellent hospitals, English is widely spoken, and many staﬀ have been trained to a high level in the UK or in the US. Malaysian specialists rank among the best in the world in terms of training and expertise. Besides, Malaysia has a national accreditation scheme (MSQH) and most of the private hospitals currently hold international healthcare accreditation, whether British, American or Australian. Additionally, the country’s capital acts as a major Asian transport centre, making getting here easy. “Furthermore, Kuala Lumpur has been selected as the host of numerous international medical congresses. The World Congress of Gynaecology and Obstetrics (FIGO), the APLAR Congress Of Rheumatology, and the International Asia Paciﬁc Society of Infection Control (APSIC) are just a few of many events which have created a marked awareness among international and regional medical associations of Malaysia as a value for money destination with professional world class service.”
All this says volumes about Malaysia’s growing reputation as a medical tourism locale of choice for discerning patients looking for value for money quality treatments. And with fertility specialists also making leaps and bounds in their ﬁeld, tourists from around the world will soon be choosing to make Malaysia their rendezvous point for making babies.