KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 12 — The government, in one fell swoop with a state of emergency, plans to nationalise Malaysia’s private health care system during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said — with today’s emergency proclamation by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong that places Malaysia under a state of emergency until August 1 — that emergency ordinances can be enacted to cover the use of private hospital assets; temporary takeover of land, buildings, or property of private hospitals; or to request the use of private hospital resources to treat Covid-19 patients.
“In line with that, the government can get a more inclusive participation from the private sector, including private health care facilities to reduce the burden borne by government agencies, especially public hospitals,” Muhyiddin said in a national broadcast on Malaysia’s state of emergency.
“Through this ordinance, the aid that can be obtained from the private sector include human resources, expertise, facilities, assets, testing laboratories, and utilities.
“Besides that, the necessary powers under this ordinance will be used to facilitate management and to supersede any rules that complicate speedy, efficient, and effective public health care delivery in this pandemic.”
Emergency ordinances can be pushed through by the Executive without legislative oversight, as Parliament and state legislative assemblies have been suspended under the emergency.
The prime minister’s announcement indicates that it is not just private hospitals that may be affected, but also possibly private clinics and laboratories.
The Association of Private Hospitals of Malaysia (APHM) previously requested the government to allocate a budget for public hospital patients to seek treatment at private hospitals, while their treatment for non-Covid-19 diseases gets delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
However, Budget 2021 made no such allocations.
All Covid-19 cases are currently treated in the public health care system. Transferring coronavirus patients to private hospitals — which treat patients of other diseases — risks Covid-19 outbreaks in those facilities, as seen in several public hospitals in the Klang Valley.
Malaysia has a dual health care system, where private health spending is nearly equivalent to public health spending. The previous Barisan Nasional (BN) administration unsuccessfully tried to push for a social health insurance programme, called 1Care, that was meant to replicate the UK’s NHS system.
Muhyiddin announced today that penalties could also be increased for anyone who breaks rules related to the control of the Covid-19 epidemic. The Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 currently limits punishments for violations to RM1,000.