Another Study On Health Care Unnecessary — Chua Hong Teck

Health care reform takes time to implement, so we need to stop talking and start taking action. 

The Five Year Development Plan started in 1966 with the First Malaysia Plan 1966-1970. I first got involved with the Five Year Development Plan in 1985, at the end of the Fourth Malaysia Plan 1981-1985, and for the preparation of the Fifth Malaysia Plan 1986-1990.

After that, I was involved in the preparation of both the policies and development allocations for many of the subsequent plans. For the 10th Malaysia Plan, I was deeply involved as I was in the Economic Planning Unit (EPU). While these plans touch on many policies for the public sector and the country, the Five Year Development Plans will provide allocations for agencies for the development of physical facilities such as new clinics and hospitals, and non-physical programmes such as human resource development, research and development, and for the private sector (grants, subsidies, etc).

In the 12th Malaysia Plan, an allocation of RM400 billion has been earmarked, and it has been stated about half will go towards the funding for the physical development projects, while the other RM200 billion is for the non-physical funding. 

One of the strategies mentioned in this 12th Malaysia Plan under the Healthcare Sector is “Redesigning the Healthcare Service”. A blueprint for Malaysia’s health care system reform will be introduced as the way forward for a national health care system transformation.

In designing this blueprint, a study will be undertaken to strengthen the health care sector. It will include public health care sector transformation, private health care sector regulatory reform, and sustainable health care financing.

These three issues mentioned above have been repeatedly mentioned in the previous plans. Many studies and papers for both health care transformation and health financing have been carried out since 1985.

As for the private health care sector, regulations have been put in place with the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act. The Malaysia Productivity Corporation (MPC) together with the Ministry of Health (MOH) have been carrying out studies in this area. Some of the major studies include the following:

  • Healthcare Services Financing Study (NHFS),Westinghouse Overseas Service Corporation, funded by ADB, 1985
  • National Health Security Study (NHSF), Phase 11, Final Report, Birch & Davis International Inc, funded by ADB as a follow-up to the first study, commissioned by EPU, 1989
  • National Health Plan Study, ADB Final Report Volume 1, 1993
  • Study on the corporatisation of 14 general hospitals , 1995-1996
  • National Healthcare Financing Mechanism in Malaysia, Ministry of Health, EPU and UNDP, KAROL Consulting, Australia, 2007
  • Impact Analysis of Proposed Healthcare Reform in Malaysia, Prof. Soonman Kwon, WHO Consultant, 2009
  • 1Care for 1Malaysia, 2012
  •  Malaysian Health System Reform (MHSR) by Harvard University, 2016-2018

The study conducted by Harvard was the most recent major study, but unfortunately, the second part of the study, which involves recommendations for health delivery and financing, has not been made public. There are more than 10 other studies and papers that are related to health care reform and financing that are not listed above.

Therefore, I am of the opinion it is unnecessary to have another study in the 12th Malaysia Plan on similar issues. Even though the Covid-19 pandemic over the last two years have exposed shortcomings in the public and private health systems, I am sure everyone is aware of what needs to be done to strengthen and transform the Malaysian health care system. Some of the major issues include:

1. To make Malaysia a healthier nation that requires a whole-of-government (not MOH alone) and national approach; 

2. To enhance collaborations between the public and private sectors (involving human resources, facilities and equipment) that have been developed during the pandemic;

3. To implement reforms in health care financing, rather than just conduct studies;

4. To open up the economy to local and foreign companies for the development of the health care industry as a strategic industry, for both the services sector and the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals and medical devices; and

5. To better plan for the development of human resources for national health care. 

Health care reform takes time to implement, so we need to stop talking and start taking action. I hope the new health minister and everyone will do what is necessary. 

  • This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of CodeBlue.

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