Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council in ‘serious’ condition with massive resignations, ‘lack of direction’

Trouble seems to be brewing in the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC), which sources say is linked to a recent change in its top leadership.

Twenytwo13 learnt a total of 22 resignations have taken place since the council saw the appointment of a new chief executive officer, in October, last year.

The slew of resignations, ranging from middle to top management staff, began late last year, with sources telling Twentytwo13 that more employees are expected to leave.

Questions are also being raised as to whether the spate of resignations would affect the Malaysia Year of Medical Tourism 2026 programme.

Established in 2005, MHTC, an agency under the Health Ministry, is tasked with promoting the country’s fledgling healthcare travel industry. MHTC takes the lead in promoting and enhancing Malaysia’s healthcare travel landscape. The agency is also tasked with promoting Malaysian healthcare globally and facilitating the industry’s sustainability.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, several former employees told Twentytwo13 that they quit as they were left with no other options. They cited a lack of “a clear direction” and “a toxic working environment” as reasons for leaving.

There were also those who claimed that they were made redundant as they had been “stopped from carrying out what had been planned”.

One long-serving former staff told Twentytwo13 that while changes in the top leadership were something she and her former colleagues were used to, she had no option but to leave as they could “no longer serve in the capacity we were entrusted with”.

“The boat started to sink after the second week of October. We were told to not execute things that we had planned to do. At the same time, it was not clearly spelt out what we needed to do,” said the former employee.

“We are a council that has been doing well. Our agency was allocated a RM30 million budget by the government for 2024, the highest ever, compared to RM20 million previously. We have already drawn up our plans for 2024 through 2025. But we were told to stop everything we were doing by the top leadership, without a clear direction on what was to be done next,” she said.

Another former employee said she was concerned that Malaysia Year of Medical Tourism programme, which is in 2026, would be impacted by what was happening in MHTC.

She said Malaysia is ranked among the top medical tourism destinations in Asia, thanks to our affordable and high quality medical treatment.

“Indonesia is our main market, and MHTC had planned to organise health expositions in Indonesia. Yet, we were told not to proceed. It is baffling, as this is how we have been promoting health tourism in Malaysia, with the participation of Malaysian healthcare facilities.

“We have some 700,000 Indonesians coming here for medical tourism, and this is just one per cent of the Indonesian market. We can do so much more,” she said.

“Bangladesh is another emerging market, and we had also planned to carry out a similar programme there. However, we were informed by the top person in MHTC not to focus on Bangladeshis abroad, but to find them ‘at Low Yat Plaza’,” said the former staff.

The staff added that the Malaysia Healthcare Expo in Indonesia had been organised several times since 2019.

“People there sign up and buy health packages. Markets would have been activated by now, but I doubt the agency is on track.”

The former staff added that after Malaysia, Thailand’s health tourism offered very competitive pricing, and if things are not on track on the Malaysian side, medical tourists may venture elsewhere.

Two other former senior staff said they were unhappy as junior staff in the agency were allegedly tasked by the top management to “form a task force to investigate projects of other staff, including vice-presidents in the agency.”

“It’s absurd. Many of us have been working here for years and what we do is all audited, and above board. Suddenly, we learn that top management had appointed ‘spies’ to check on our work. What gives?”

“There was also an incident where a memo was issued in January by the top management, warning staff that they cannot ‘gossip’ or ‘spread rumours’. If they disobey, disciplinary action can be taken against them, including being issued with a verbal or written warning, suspension, or even termination, depending on the severity and frequency of the offence.”

Another senior staff said just like his colleagues, he had served MHTC for years.

“We have helped build the industry and it has become one that is sustainable. Sadly, many of us who have helped grow the agency, were ultimately forced to leave,” he said.

Twentytwo13 has reached out to MHTC’s CEO, Dr Mohamed Ali Abu Bakar, and the Health Ministry, and is awaiting their response.

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