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Malaysia - Health Service

In Malaysia, 999 is the official emergency call line. This number was inherited from British rule and was kept after the country gained independence. 999 can be used to get help from police and ambulance, fire rescue, and civil defense. Prior to 2007, there was a separate emergency number for cellular phone users, 112, but now 999 is the universal emergency number to call.

In the event that you need to call 999, be prepared to answer the following questions:

• What is your location?
• What is your telephone number?
• What is the emergency?
• How many people need help?
• What is their age?
• Are they conscious/breathing?
• Do not hang up until instructed to do so.

There is a very high standard of medical care in Malaysia. This high standard has come as a result of improved standards of living for the country’s people, and a growing awareness of technological and scientific advances in medicine. Malaysia offers universal healthcare to its citizens, and there are private institutions and practices available as well. In recent years, the Malaysian government has been investing more in the healthcare infrastructure and connecting healthcare providers all around the country. This way, patients in isolated areas are better served because their physicians can easily consult more experienced doctors working in large city hospitals. This system is called ‘telehealth’ and was designed to serve the 44% of Malaysia’s populations that live in rural areas. The public, state-run hospitals are usually found in the cities, while the private clinics typically operate outside of the urban areas. While Malaysia’s universal healthcare system has a state-owned base that works closely with the private sector, both segments have autonomy.

Malaysia’s universal healthcare system is paid for through taxation. The Malaysian citizens pay a percentage in taxes, which is redirected to the health care system. Some worry that the public health system will not be able to keep up with the demand, leading to longer wait times and a decreased quality of care. Otherwise, people can pay out of pocket at private health providers, or pay for insurance plans to cover their healthcare. Only private healthcare organizations accept health insurance.

It is important to be prepared, as most of Malaysia’s private medical institutions require immediate payment for services, and many require deposits before treatment, or proof of insurance. This is expected of anyone who is not covered by the universal healthcare system, not just foreigners. In the event of an emergency where you are unable to pay prior to medical treatment, you will be required to pay in full as soon as physically able.

There are private medical insurance plans available to expatriates and Malaysians. It is common for Malaysians to have private insurance plants, as they don’t have to wait so long for treatment, and it is generally thought that patients are given more attention in private settings rather than in government-funded hospitals.

There are also comprehensive plans available that include evacuation and repatriation, if an emergency situation arises where you need to leave the area or go back home for treatment.

Ambulance services are funded by the government so you will not be required to pay for transportation to an emergency hospital. However, there is no transportation provided from an emergency hospital to another hospital, which can be problematic for expats. While you will not be denied treatment in a true emergency, you will be expected for pay for it in full or provide insurance information as soon as you are able.

Visitors and tourists are not covered by the public healthcare system. Private practices and doctors are the only options for expatriates, and treatment can be very expensive. There are international medical insurance plans available for expats to avoid expensive medical bills.


Malaysia has a lot of smokers in its population, estimated at 9 million people, or 23% of the population. In order to try to counteract the detrimental effects of smoking, lawmakers have been passing legislation since 1976 to discourage people from smoking. In 1976, legislation was passed requiring a general warning message to be printed on Malaysian cigarette packaging, and during the 1980s, smoking was banned in public places. In May of 1994, the legal smoking age was raised to 18, and tobacco advertising became illegal in 2003. In June of 2010, it became illegal to smoke in private spaces with central air conditioning. Violators of this most recent law can be fined up to 10,000 Malaysian Ringgit, and even imprisoned for two years.

There are higher death rates in Malaysia compared to countries with comparable incomes, with a 19% higher rate for men and an 8.2% higher rate for women. According to the World Health Organization, 36% of deaths in Malaysia are due to cardiovascular diseases. It is believed that smoking is a huge contributor to this statistic. While 37.9% of men in Malaysia smoke, only 1.4% of females do.

Counselling services

There are many different providers who offer counselling services to English speaking expatriates, and there are many different resources to help in the adjustment period, and with the difficulties of being far away from home. Make sure your provider has at least a master’s degree level of education and a valid medical license. It is also important to seek out the appropriate therapist, as some only treat with psychotropic medication. It is best to consult directories and you can always ask a primary care provider for referrals.

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