Thursday, September 13, 2007

Keeping Malaysia Healthy

Keeping Malaysia healthy, in more ways than one, is proving to be quite a task.

While we won't yet go into details of the proposed 2008 budget announced by Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, suffice to say a few points - if not all - is being hotly contested by various parties.

One that has been a pet peeve of the Parti Sosialis Malaysia and their ilk - front organisations which are fronted by them anyway - is the implementation of the full paying patient scheme announced in the 2008 Budget.

To sum up their arguments, those against the scheme say, inter-alia, medical specialists fail to turn up for duty due to exhaustion after spending hours treating private patients; doctors preferring to spend time with private patients rather than government-subsidised patients; hospitals being money-making concerns; eventual privatisation of government hospitals; and government's sacred duty to provide health care for all.

Right. The reality is of course, the ruling coalition is proposing the FPP scheme to start January 1 2008 despite a pilot six-month scheme in the Selayang and Putrajaya hospitals that began August 1, 2007. Also, a similar scheme was launched four years ago in two teaching hospitals - University Malaya Specialist Centre (UMSC) and Hospital Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.

Okay, let's cut the disingenuous designs of those opposed to the scheme. The scheme will allow the civil service, and by extension the government, to retain the best and brightest medical talents to be used for all patients - poor and rich.

Otherwise, the poor will have to just do with doctors and specialists without much experience. Don't even think of paying them more to keep them as private healthcare centres are willing to pay more - whether in Malaysia or abroad.

One more thing, doctors are not so greedy or hard up for money that they won't treat all patients in government facilities. The fact that they are staying back in government service speak volumes for their dedication.

Also, the full paying patients in UMSC get full treatment after office hours as most specialists conduct their clinics then, after ward rounds and lectures in teaching hospitals. Also, the more specialists get to practise their skills, the better for all patients - rich or poor. Those in private practise might charge more but do not have many cases to be consulted on, and possibly have less experience especially for surgical cases.

As for the government's duty to provide healthcare, I know from personal experience that we are getting more than good treatment in government hospitals than others, such as foreigners, are getting.

Foreigners have to pay many more times than a Malaysian has to pay, for such things as broken limbs and other ailments. And even those who go for cardiac surgery pay less than those who opt for private care.

If the Siber Party of Malaysia (M) were to run the government, we would definitely extend the scheme to all hospitals to ensure we retain the best and brightest and to provide the best possible healthcare to all Malaysians.

Any other scheme will have to do the same.

Having said that, we were quite amused to read in Mentera's favourite online comic that the Democratic Action Party (DAP) held a forum on the proposed 2008 budget with only 20 attendees, but all agreeing that it was not a budget for all.

The party, has of course, proposed its own budget with some good ideas. We praise when it is good, you know! But of course they would not agree to the government's budget, no opposition party worth its stripes or salt would.

We will present some aspects of what we think any budget will need to make Malaysia, and in our case, Kuala Lumpur, better.

Meanwhile, if you are still interested in budgets, take a load of this.

UPDATE: Here's another letter opposing the full paying patient scheme with some of the tired old arguments. Guess doctors get shtick for just getting what they get while everyone expects reasonable or is it unreasonable rates for treatment.

The way I see it, better for patients who can afford it to pay for reasonable rates in government hospitals and thus enabling the government to invest in better facilities that can be enjoyed by all.

Let's face it, healthcare is expensive.

You break an arm and it might require to metal plates that each cost three hundred ringgit, a better option than plaster casts as recovery is faster. It is virtually free if you are a Malaysian but not if you are a foreigner.

So, think about it.

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