Our Public Hospitals: No money? Rumours and Facts…

For Budget 2017, the Defence Ministry received an allocation of RM15.1 billion of the total RM262.8 billion allocated for the year, while the Prime Minister’s Department, according to a Malaysiakini report, received an allocation of RM15.9 billion.

17 Nov 2016

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17 Nov 2016

Why break a perfectly decent public healthcare system?

Zan Azlee

COMMENT | Generally, Malaysia has a pretty good healthcare system in the sense that anyone who is a citizen can have access to affordable healthcare. The government hospitals and clinics are funded by a subsidised system that ensures prices remain within reach.

If you are admitted, the cost for the wards are not something of great concern, and you can even choose different classes. Third class may not be as comfortable as first class, but that is relative and at least the medical service is still the same.

However early this week, the Health Ministry made an announcement that might be an indication that the priority of providing affordable healthcare to the people might by dropping. The medical and ward charges for patients in first and second class will be increased come January 2017.

An estimated 75 percent of Malaysians choose to get treatment from government hospitals while 25 percent choose private hospitals. According to Health Minister Dr S Subramaniam, those who choose to go for first and second class can opt for private hospitals.

However, I would doubt that because it would be quite a big jump even from the first class at a government hospital to a private hospital. Most government first class wards would cost around RM80 a night. Private hospital wards can go as high as RM1,000 a night.

Rumours have indicated that the hike may be up to 50 percent but according to Dr Subramaniam, they have yet to confirm how much of an increase it would be…

The minister also said that the cost to sustain the national healthcare system is increasing and the increase in price is meant to help the government cope with it. He ensures that it will still be affordable and still be subsidised. I believe him.

What I believe the government needs to do in times when the economy is bad and the financial situation of the country isn’t so good is to start prioritising what areas to spend. We recently had the tabling and passing of the 2017 National Budget by the prime minister.

It is heart breaking to see that our government representatives have decided to slash the budget for two of the most important areas of that, in all logical sense, needs to be at the topmost priority. And these are the education and health sectors.

I am not looking forward to a healthcare system in Malaysia that is profit-driven, a Malaysia where health insurance becomes a necessity and becomes a part of Malaysians’ cost of living. Extra health insurance and private healthcare should be an option and not a necessity.

We can see that the model already in the United States where healthcare is private and if you don’t have insurance, then you could either be denied healthcare or just incur exorbitant fees that would put you in permanent debt and financial crisis if you were to fall ill. It isn’t a good model.

There are better models that we can look to (in fact, we actually have one of the better models in the world) such as in Cuba, Canada and the United Kingdom, where they prove that healthcare can be provided for free, or at least very cheaply through proper subsidisation.

Let’s not let the worse happen to Malaysia. I can’t stress enough that if we already have a model healthcare system that is working well for the people, then let’s not try to worsen it. In times when belts need to be tighten, we tighten around the waist, not around the throat.


ZAN AZLEE is a writer, documentary filmmaker, journalist and academic. He is thankful that doctors and nurses at a government hospital saved his wife’s life when she almost died during childbirth. Visit FATBIDIN.COM to view his work.

14 Nov 2016

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PETALING JAYA: DAP lawmaker Charles Santiago has slammed Putrajaya for increasing charges for the first class and second class wards in public hospitals beginning Jan 1.

Speaking on the hike, announced by Health Minister Dr S Subramaniam yesterday, Santiago said he was concerned over the increasing trend of costs being transferred from the government to the patients in the public health sector.

Subramaniam said the new charges – which have yet to be determined – will only affect patients who requested to be moved to the upper two classes from third class wards.

“The debt crisis Putrajaya is facing is taking its toll on the people. The budget for medicines has already been reduced and now this.

“Healthcare is a core responsibility of any government. What we are seeing now is the government unloading its healthcare responsibilities onto the people.”

He said people who depended on government healthcare were largely those from the Bottom 40 (B40), who were already struggling.

“What the government should do instead is cut its defence spending. We should only be spending on assets necessary for securing high-risk areas, such as Sabah’s east coast.

“Better yet, cut down on the budget allocation for the Prime Minister’s Department,” said the Klang MP in urging the government to protect and ensure affordable healthcare for all Malaysians.

11 Nov 2016

JB hospital stops accepting tests over ‘national funds shortage’

Alyaa Alhadjri

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Sultanah Aminah Hospital (HSA) in Johor Bahru has temporarily stopped accepting referrals from surrounding government clinics to perform various tests at its Pathology Department, citing “shortage of funds”.

An Oct 17 internal memo from its Pathology Department sighted by Malaysiakini said shortage was at a national level.

According to the memo received by HSA director Dr Rooshaimi Mexican Abdul Rahim Merican on Oct 25, the pathology department had identified its available stock of reagent is at a “very critical” level, estimated to finish in less than a month.

“Due to shortage of funds to obtain reagents and consumables at a national level, the Pathology Lab for Hospital Sultanah Aminah, Johor Bahru has identified tests where reagent stocks to conduct such tests are at critical level (less than one month’s supply),” the memo read.

Priority would be given for HSA’s patients as well as paediatric patients, it read.

Reagents are chemical substances used in machines that perform various tests, including on a person’s blood sample, urine, tissue or other bodily fluids.

“Without funds to purchase more reagents, the tests cannot be performed,” a source, who wanted to remain anonymous as he is not authorised to speak to the media, told Malaysiakini.

Among tests which would be temporarily halted were for renal function and liver function.

Another Health Ministry source told Malaysiakini that the funding could only be obtained after the 2017 Supply Bill was passed in Parliament.

Under Budget 2017, prime minister Najib Abdul Razak had announced RM4 billion in allocations for supply of medicines, consumables and reagents at all government health facilities nationwide.

This is part of the Health Ministry’s RM25 billion proposed total allocations for next year.

The Supply Bill was passed at the policy stage on Monday and debates are now ongoing at the committee stage.

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