MySalam (Ministry of Finance)
We applaud the launching of the mySalam critical illness scheme for the B40 group; however, we question the rationale behind why early cancers diagnosed before January 1, 2019 are currently excluded.
Is the government saying that patients who were diagnosed earlier are just unlucky to have missed the boat?
While we understand that this income replacement payment is the first of its kind to help the B40, the Government surely understands that RM8,000 is certainly not enough to help support patients while they undergo treatment of critical illnesses such as cancer. Even when a person is using public hospitals, both the cost of treatment and loss of income can be crippling.
In public hospitals, most medication may be given free or heavily subsidized. However, advanced drugs such as targeted therapies are either unavailable or will need to be purchased privately by patients.
Most likely, this is where the money from mySalam will end up being spent. On expensive medication necessary for survival.
Even as an income replacement during cancer treatment, it falls short. B40 households have a monthly income of RM4,000 or less, so that one-time payment, is equivalent to only 2 months. Most cancer treatments exceed that length, ranging from 6 months to one year depending on each case, even for early stage cancer patients.
In the case of Sarawak, there is only the Sarawak General Hospital (SGH) in the whole city of Kuching that is equipped with an oncological or cancer unit. Patients who reside in other towns or rural areas will have to travel long distances (e.g. 800 km drive from Miri to Kuching) to receive treatment in SGH, Kuching.
Cost involved in seeking or obtaining treatment include air tickets, accommodation, and time-off from work. It can and is an expensive exercise.
In most cases, patients would need a primary caregiver to be with them at all times. That would easily double up the cost incurred. Will they get paid for all the leaves taken? What if they are dependent solely on wages which are paid daily? The time spent seeking treatment for outstation patients are certainly longer than for patients residing in Kuching.
It’s now been two months since the implementation of the mySalam scheme. The only news reported out of the Ministry of Finance is that out of over 1,000 mySalam applicants so far, only two successfully received the RM8,000 benefit.
Is the mechanism to review and process applications working well? Why is the success rate so low?
How is the application process being tracked to ensure timely disbursement of the fund to benefit the B40 group who are in need of this financial aid?
PeKA B40 (Ministry of Health)
According to news reports, the Ministry of Health’s “Peduli Kesihatan” for the B40 (PeKa B40) is expected to benefit 800,000 Malaysians above the age of 50 beginning March this year.
Considering PEKA 40 is starting with just RM100 million, it is clear that there will be limits in the program coverage. We hope to see in 2020, an increased budget to cater for younger Malaysians, including those in their 30s and 40s. Cancer, like many other diseases and illnesses afflict all, regardless of age.
The government has recruited private facilities to conduct health screenings under the Peka B40 program. In the long run, we need to ensure that screening and treatment services are made available in most major public hospitals and oncological unit across the country. Unfortunately in Sarawak, only the Sarawak General Hospital in Kuching has the core cancer screening and treatment facility. No other public healthcare centre has those services.
We hope that Government will monitor implementation of both schemes and take actions necessary for the enhancement and supporting structure to ensure that they really work to benefit the needy in B40 group.
Lastly, Ministry of Health should also study successful healthcare systems or models used in other countries such as Australia (private clinics see patients and claim from government), Singapore (through the Central Provident Fund), take the best from each and have what works for us in Malaysia.
Thailand and Sri Lanka’s HAQ (Healthcare Access and Quality) index were not much different from what Malaysia had in 2000. Yet, both countries have since improved their ranking leaving Malaysia behind as per the latest HQA in 2016. What did they do to improve, that we didn’t do?
If we are to say that we have achieved Universal Healthcare Coverage and apparently have the best of healthcare in the world, surely we can do better and ensure that no one is left behind.
After all, access to health is a human right.
Sew Boon Lui is President of the Society for Cancer Advocacy & AwareNess Kuching (SCAN)
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