Budget 2021 Inadequate For NCDs, Non-Covid Diseases Don’t ‘Suddenly Vanish’: MPs

Both Kuala Kedah MP Dr Azman Ismail and Jerlun MP Mukhriz Mahathir want more funds to combat chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 18 — Kuala Kedah MP Dr Azman Ismail and Jerlun MP Mukhriz Mahathir have called for bigger allocations in Budget 2021 to tackle non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

Malaysia is currently facing an NCD crisis that costs the economy nearly RM9 billion in annual productivity losses. According to the National Health and Morbidity Survey 2019, about 8.1 per cent of the adult population in Malaysia, or 1.7 million people, have all three risk factors for diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol. An estimated 3.9 million people in the country suffer from diabetes, or nearly one out of five adults.

“This budget is not enough to provide enough funds to continue all the good work that the Ministry of Health (MOH) is doing — cardiology, cancer, nephrology, kidney, mother and child,” Dr Azman said in Parliament last Thursday while debating Budget 2021.

“Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) — cancer, and all, cardiology that is the biggest killer…if their funds are cut, then we will all suffer,” the PKR lawmaker said, adding that NCDs, being chronic illnesses, take a long time to be treated.

Mukhriz also called for a bigger allocation for MOH to treat NCDs like cancer and diabetes.

“Although we’re struggling with Covid-19, that’s true, it doesn’t mean that other diseases suddenly vanish,” Mukhriz said while debating Budget 2021 in the Dewan Rakyat today.

The Ministry of Health’s (MOH) Budget 2021 showed how different clinical departments, including oncology and radiotherapy, nephrology, cardiothoracic suffered from budget cuts by more than half as compared to this year. MOH’s public health allocation was reduced by about 12 per cent.

Budget 2021 slashed the budget for nephrology by 77.61 per cent from RM252 million to RM56.4 million, cut for cardiothoracic by 66.70 per cent from RM180.52 million to RM60.1 million, while oncology and radiotherapy had their budget cut by 58.49 per cent from RM328.7 million to RM136.43 million.

The Finance Ministry and MOH have denied the budget cuts, stating that allocations for medical supplies have been moved to separate lump-sum budgets instead under “Program Khusus” (Specific Programmes), by which those who need the allocations will have to apply separately for it. MOH claimed it was a way to oversee the expenditure of all MOH facilities.

More Funds Needed For Covid-19

Jerlun MP Mukhriz Mahathir. Picture from Facebook @MM.BeraniBerubah

Dr Azman also pointed out that the government should add a separate allocation as a contingency fund in case there will be other waves of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We should provide a specific contingency fund so that if there is an emergency, happen again in the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth wave, we will have enough funds and all that we are doing now can be continued,” said the trained doctor.

As per Budget 2021, there is a RM1 billion allocation to be used for the third wave of the pandemic to purchase personal protective equipment, test kits, hand sanitisers etc, but no extra allocation has been made as a contingency fund.

Mukhriz told Parliament today that the government should increase Covid-19 related allocations in Budget 2021 to cover mass testing, not just for Malaysian citizens but also both documented and undocumented foreign workers in the country.

“If we do not acknowledge their presence, we will not be able to control transmission towards our people.”

The Pejuang MP also urged the government to set aside allocations in next year’s budget to manufacture local vaccines, saying that other countries would prioritise their own populations or might sell vaccines to Malaysia at a higher price.

Dr Azman said he was dissatisfied with the federal budget as there was no significant increase in the funds allocated for MOH. Under Budget 2021, the government has allocated RM31.9 billion for MOH, which is only a 4.3 per cent increase as compared to Budget 2020, which was RM31.6 billion.

He pointed out that the budget should have three priorities. One, it should save the lives of each citizen in Malaysia. Second, it should strive to improve and maintain the health of the citizens of Malaysia. Thirdly, the budget should save the economy of citizens in Malaysia.

“Only this is important, the others aside, not that important, and not the priority.”

“Priority in saving the lives and health of Malaysians lies on several ministries especially, MOH,” Dr Azman stressed.

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