Healthcare in Malaysia is mainly under the responsibility of the government's Ministry of Health. Malaysia generally has an efficient and widespread system of healthcare, operating a two-tier healthcare system consisting of both a government-run universal healthcare system and a co-existing private healthcare system. Infant mortality rate – a standard in determining the overall efficiency of healthcare – in 2005 was 10, comparing favourably with the United States and Western Europe. Life expectancy at birth in 2005 was 74 years.
Healthcare in Malaysia has undergone some radical transformations. The earliest pre-colonial medical cases were confined mostly to those traditional remedies that are evident today in Chinese, Malay and other ethnic groups. However, with the birth of colonialism, more modern and Westernised medical practices were slowly introduced to the country.
At present, Malaysia's healthcare system is divided into two sectors – the public sector and the private sector. The healthcare system requires doctors to perform a compulsory three years service with public hospitals to ensure that the manpower in these hospitals is maintained. Doctors are required to perform four years including two years of housemanship and two years government service with public hospitals throughout the nation, ensuring adequate coverage of medical needs for the general population. Foreign doctors are encouraged to apply for employment in Malaysia, especially if they are qualified to a higher level. There is still, however, a significant shortage in the medical workforce, especially of highly trained specialists; thus, certain medical care and treatment are available only in large cities. Recent efforts to bring many facilities to other towns have been hampered by lack of expertise to run the available equipment. As a result certain medical care and treatment is available only in large cities.
Over the years, Malaysia has been continuously vigilant about her healthcare system. The presence of so many medical schools is enough to attest to the fact that Malaysia is serious about providing quality healthcare, not only to its citizens, but also to expatriates, tourists, migrants and visitors. Without the government's vision, Malaysia 's healthcare system would be decades behind the level that it has reached today. From the inception of the First Malaya Plan, Malaysia has increased the number of community clinics from 26 to 1,919, expanded health clinics from 16 to 895, increased hospitals and medical institutions from 65 to 134 as well as private hospitals from 50 to 233.
The Malaysian government is very committed to its principles of universal access to high-quality healthcare, which the local Ministry of Health offers through a network of nationwide clinics and hospitals. However, in spite of the dedication of the local government, there are still some problems that are unsolved, and one of those is the unavailability of quality healthcare centres in remote areas. Transferring a patient from a specific health centre to a more general hospital incurs some inconveniences on the part of the patient and the family, and also adds a cost to the healthcare system. In order to deal with the issue, a tool called “Tele-primary Care” has been designed. This allows doctors in remote areas to discuss problem cases through tele-consultations with specialists and doctors in other hospitals.
In general, hospitals in Malaysia are outstanding and are stocked with the latest in medical equipment.
The current health financing system in place in Malaysia is one of government subsidisation, in which Malaysian citizens can go to any local public hospital and pay a heavily government subsidised fee to receive healthcare. To put it into perspective, the Ministry of Health only collects roughly 3% of its income in consultation fees. The rest of the income is made up heavily of government funding, and overseas aid program packages.
Malaysia is also a popular destination for medical tourism. Prominent services include those relating to cardiology, dentistry, gastroenterology, screenings, general surgery, orthopaedics, ophthalmology and plastic surgery.