WHILE many public and private hospitals in Myanmar offer excellent
service and care, many people still choose to leave the country
when they require surgery.
Dr Htin Lin, director of Myanmar Zircon Company, says agents
representing Thai and Singaporean private hospitals have been
operating in Myanmar since the late 1990s.
“Our observation is that Singapore public hospitals are
benefiting from Myanmar patients’ perception that they deliver
better healthcare. As a result, the number of patients visiting
Singaporean public hospitals is increasing,” he says.
Myanmar Zircon provides free advisory services to all Myanmar
patients. But the company works exclusively with Singapore’s
health services and does not offer services in Bangkok.
Dr Aung Pyi Tun, who runs Mascots Company, explains the services
his company provides.
“We are effectively the link between our clients and the
hospitals or clinics they choose to work with. We set up referrals,
arrange visits and transfer case information between local doctors
and their overseas counterparts. We also handle general enquiries,
set up tele-consultations, travel documents, cost estimations
and facilitate medical evacuations,” he says.
Mascots Company has links to a number of hospitals in Singapore,
including the National University Hospital (NUH) and Tan Tock
Seng Hospital (TTSH).
But the company does not limit itself to Singaporean hospitals
and also assists clients who would prefer to visit a Bangkok hospital
“Our clients are often wealthy individuals with serious
medical conditions,” Dr Aung Pyi Tun says.
“Part of our service is providing second opinions so that
these clients can confirm their diagnoses. After that we put them
in touch with whatever medical services they require. Often that
means they will leave the country to receive treatment,”
Dr Htin Lin says that the most popular hospital for major surgery
is Singapore General Hospital.
“As the largest Joint Commission International (JCI) accredited
hospital in the region, we notice that Singapore General Hospital
receives most of the patients requiring sophisticated surgeries
like bone marrow transplants, brain surgery, heart surgery, thoracic
surgery and liver surgery,” he says.
Dr Htin Lin says the market for medical tourism is undergoing
a change at the moment.
“While most patients have traditionally been people going
for very major and complicated medical and surgical operations,
we are seeing more patients just going for medical check ups,”
“These people are choosing to have check ups done while
they are outside the country on business and shopping trips. In
these cases, their shopping and business destinations pretty much
decide which hospitals they visit,” he says.
He estimates that more than 100 Myanmar patients go abroad each
month for medical care. Dr Aung Pyi Tun says he estimates that
1000 to 1500 patients visited Singapore alone last year.
Debate surrounds the best and cheapest places to go for treatment.
Dr Paw Myint Oo of the Bangkok Hospital Medical Centre’s
office in Pyinmana says Bangkok is a cheaper option and provides
the same service.
“Getting treated in Bangkok is 50 percent cheaper than
Singapore. And the results are identical,” he contends,
adding that he thinks medical tourism will benefit Myanmar.
“I think medical tourism will indirectly stimulate the
private healthcare sector in Myanmar because hospital directors
will recognise that people are going abroad to have operations
that they could easily have done here,” Dr Aung Pyi Tun
He offers some advice to people considering where they should
“People should be well informed and prepared. They should
get advice from the relevant Myanmar specialists before they hop
on a plane overseas.”
Dr Htin Lin says he has faith that his clients exercise good
judgement when assessing their medical options.
“Myanmar patients are getting more and more knowledgeable
about the standard of healthcare provided by foreign hospitals
and more sophisticated in choosing which hospital to go to for
“Instead of going to a hospital they are already familiar
with as they did in the past, they now start asking questions
like “is this hospital JCI accredited?” Or “How
reputable are the doctors we will be dealing with?”. Sometimes
people even ask me to find out how many times the doctor or surgeon
has performed a particular procedure.”