KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 17 — Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii today called on the government to form a health reform commission to draft long-term health policies and to act as a regulator.
The DAP lawmaker from Sarawak stated that the Covid-19 pandemic, which has been a “stress test”, has exposed the systemic weaknesses as well as gaps in the health care system and social security in the country.
“Please allow me to propose to the Ministry of Finance (MOF) to look at the need and political will to prepare a special allocation with the Ministry of Health (MOH) and other ministries to form a ‘health reform commission’ to prepare a long-term plan or roadmap for 10 years, for example, on the much needed health reforms in our country,” Dr Yii said in the Dewan Rakyat today while debating proposed amendments to the Temporary Measures Act for Government Financing (Coronavirus Disease 2019 (Covid-19)) Act 2020.
According to Dr Yii, this commission is essential to build a strong and holistic health care system which is able to withstand the pressure caused by a pandemic, or effects resulting from Malaysia’s ageing population.
The commission also will be a vehicle to frame a reformation in the health care financing system, manpower resources, and health care infrastructure.
“This commission should be composed of the Health Minister, Health director-general, technocrats, experts and maybe former Health directors-general, and others, to come up with a long-term plan in order to reform our health care system.”
Dr Yii stated that this commission will be a platform to draw a 10-year roadmap, which will reduce the irreconcilable differences of temperament that are often spearheaded by politicians.
He cited that the country so far has had 22 health ministers since 1955 and on average they have been replaced every three years once. This scenario, he said, has led to frequent shifts on the long term plans due to personal political need.
“After completing the report, this commission will not only present their findings to the ministry, but also to Parliament. After parliamentary approval, this commission will monitor the reformations that have been highlighted,” Dr Yii added.
“This commission will also play a role as a regulator so that MOH is able to focus on their role as a service provider and purchaser, whereby this was done by MOF (Ministry of Finance) all this while.”
MOH currently plays multiple contradictory roles as health care provider, regulator, and purchaser of medicines and treatments provided in its facilities. The Auditor-General’s Report 2019 Series 1 noted that the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act 1998, which regulates the operation of private health facilities, exempts MOH hospitals. Public university hospitals run by the Ministry of Higher Education, however, are still subject to the law.
Dr Yii insisted that health care policies should be designed for long-term implementation and should not be changed frequently based on politicians’ needs.
He also said that long-term plans are more “economically viable” and “sustainable” for the country as the expenditures will be more organised, targeted and won’t be a burden even if Malaysia encounters other pandemics in the future.