We urge the finance minister to have a special focus on health care in the 2022 budget, as the Covid-19 pandemic has helped us to understand some of the weaknesses in Malaysia’s health care delivery.
The health care budget should also be increased to 5 per cent of GDP.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) has managed the pandemic well despite various challenges, particularly in the middle of 2021, when there were no beds available for admission in public and private hospitals in certain parts of the country.
No one could have expected a pandemic of this magnitude in the country and worldwide, but some preparation for infectious diseases should be now budgeted and planned, moving forward.
Budget 2022 must strengthen the public health care system, so that Malaysian citizens will be able to receive treatment and care as scheduled, particularly at this stage when cases have been postponed for months, due to the pandemic.
Private hospitals in the Greater Klang Valley have treated more than 3,500 non-Covid patients decanted from public hospitals, and the process is still ongoing in other states such as Penang, Johor and Sarawak.
Private hospitals are willing to accept patients from public hospitals up to next year in order to clear the long waiting list. The model has worked well so far, and we urge the government to have a budget for this exercise for 2022, with reasonable reimbursements.
This will save the government billions of ringgit in building new facilities. There are about 220 private hospitals, and once the list of outstanding cases is settled, then usual services can commence. However, we are happy to assist the MOH anytime.
In order to regain some international revenue, private hospitals are ready to accept medical tourists. Therefore, a sizeable promotion budget for the Malaysian Healthcare Travel Council will be necessary, since other countries in the region are now promoting medical tourism again, but with necessary precautions.
We hope that the government will keep allowing private health care providers to be competitive in terms of pricing and costs. Currently, Malaysian medical tourism has the best value for money within the region.
Any form of price control will be detrimental to the private health care industry. Citizens should have a robust and accessible health care system in the public hospitals, and any treatment sought in private hospitals should be decided by market forces.
Budget 2022 should strengthen public health care in order for citizens to enjoy quick and effective treatment at low costs. Private health care can remain as an alternative for those who can afford it.
Dr Kuljit Singh is the president of the Association of Private Hospitals Malaysia (APHM).
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