KUALA LUMPUR, April 1 – Malaysia’s Ministry of Health (MOH) provided in-patient treatment to 30,261 UNHCR refugees in the last five years from 2017 until 2021.
Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, in a short written parliamentary reply on March 17 to Subang MP Wong Chen, said the MOH received payments amounting to RM49.49 million from UNHCR refugees over the five-year period.
At the same time, unpaid medical fees involving UNHCR refugees during the same period amounted to RM6.26 million.
Senior consultant paediatrician and researcher Dr Amar-Singh HSS previously called for medical fees for marginalised children, including refugee, migrant, and stateless children, to be waived as they should have universal access to health care services.
Dr Amar called for legislation that guarantees all children living in Malaysia a right to health care, regardless of their legal status, in line with Article 24 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), which Malaysia is a signatory of.
Dr Amar said while government-run public health care facilities are accessible to “foreigners”, they are at a much higher cost compared to Malaysian citizens, which are often out of reach for most migrant, refugee, and stateless families.
“While admission is possible for life-threatening illnesses, guardians still have to pay high fees for hospitalisation, procedures, and medications, putting such health care out of the reach of many (admission deposits range from RM500 to RM1,200 depending on the category of illness).
“Some who are admitted are denied a discharge until they can settle the bill. Currently, various funding mechanisms are used to support these children, including civil society organisation (CSO) funding, ethinc or country-based non-government organisations raising funds, public fundraising, or collections by MOH staff,” Dr Amar said.