Engage public in changes to health care system


Modified 14 Dec 2011, 9:58 am

I am shocked by Dr Steven Chow's revelation (Letters: "With 1 Care, the choice will not be there" on Dec 13) that the government is planning major changes in the country's health care system.

Why is the government not engaging with stakeholders, as alleged?

Is there an element of secrecy in the planning process? Dr Chow, who is president of the Federation of Private Medical Practitioners Malaysia, implies as much.

Why then the secrecy? Is it merely civil service arrogance that it knows best, or is insurance industry money playing a sinister role?

Health care is every bit as important to Malaysians as is education, about which miles of reports and comments have been written and broadcast.

The media has a duty to investigate and report, even if it means space given to politics (mud-slinging, senile blather) and sex (rape, incest, celebrity lives) is sacrificed.

A crucial point raised by Dr Chow is that health insurance is likely to be made mandatory. What a windfall for insurance companies!

Health care in Malaysia already has enough players including the government, product suppliers and private practitioners, and each has a cost.

Bringing insurance companies into a central role would be a fundamental mistake.

Instead, government tax in whatever form should pay for providing health care for all. View tax as the premium and government as the insurer.

Corporatisation of government hospitals will mean patients pay more for less, if the service qualities and financial performances of Telekom Malaysia and Tenaga Nasional in comparison with their respective predecessors are anything to by.

Instead, the Health Ministry should cut wastage. Do not build hospitals that cannot operate. Do not be too generous in the dispensation of medicines, etc.

Hospitals could increase the RM1 charged to outpatients ten-fold. Households that pay RM50+ monthly for Astro should be happy to pay RM10 for an elderly member's quarterly visits to the hospital.

Charging RM1 is a crime as it cannot cover the processing cost (receipts, banking, account keeping).

No doubt, with people living longer, health care costs are on the increase. But that does not justify government abdicating its responsibility for providing a basic public service.

About the United Kingdom's NHS, I have heard only criticisms from its consumers. The doctors and nurses who work in it have nothing good to say about it.

To the general British public, it is a joke. Malaysia should not copy it.

The changes the government is allegedly going ahead with puts what is now a basically good system at risk of being hijacked by the globally discredited financial services industry and their cronies.

It is high time Malaysian politicians and bureaucrats stopped aping what Europeans and Americans did decades ago and now regret.

It is high time the Health Ministry lets the public into what it is planning.