KUALA LUMPUR, April 28 – Only 10 per cent of 5.9 million eligible Malaysians, or 582,746 people, got screened under the Peka B40 scheme, as of March 31 this year.
Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin today described it as a “challenge” for the Ministry of Health (MOH) and ProtectHealth Corporation Sdn Bhd, an MOH-owned company, to identify the causes that are preventing over 5.3 million people from undergoing free health screenings under the Peka B40 government scheme.
“Due to the lack of screening, it is difficult for the MOH to know the real burden on our country’s health system. We will only know when they are sick.
“In this regard, I hope that ProtectHealth reviews the implementation method of Peka B40, including if it is necessary to conduct more outreach health screening programmes to make it easier for this target group.
“If there is a need to increase the number of general practitioners (GPs), that too can be done, as long as our target can be achieved,” Khairy said in his speech at the launch of the Peka B40 Annual Report 2021 in Putrajaya today.
Since its inception in 2019 until December 31, 2021, a total of 555,311 health screenings had been carried out under the Peka B40 scheme, Khairy said. The screening trend, however, has declined to back to where the programme first started, mainly due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Of the current total of 582,746 people screened, as of March this year, 186,610 individuals had at least one non-communicable disease (NCD).
“This is very worrying because there are still many more eligible Peka B40 recipients who have yet to come forward to do health screening and are unaware of their health status,” Khairy said.
ProtectHealth Corporation CEO Anas Alam Faizli, in his speech, said the top three NCDs among the B40 group based on those who had been screened were hypertension at 29.8 per cent, high cholesterol (29.2 per cent), and diabetes (19.8 per cent).
According to the National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) 2019 by the Ministry of Health (MOH), about 8.1 per cent of the adult population in Malaysia, or 1.7 million people, have all three risk factors for diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol, the main non-communicable diseases.
The prevalence rate of diabetes in adults has increased in Malaysia from 13.4 per cent in 2015 to 18.3 per cent in 2019, with diabetes defined as having sugar levels 7.0 mmol/L or above.
Anas said the Peka B40 scheme has been successful in identifying newly diagnosed NCDs, namely diseases unknown to Peka B40 recipients. Peka B40 recipients can be referred to a government hospital or clinic for follow-up treatment.
“Prevention is better than cure and this effort can also save the government money with the reduction of treatment costs when early treatments are sought to prevent complications that cause the disease to become more serious,” Anas said.
In 2021, a total of 101,673 beneficiaries were screened compared to 222,024 beneficiaries screened in 2020 – a 54 per cent drop year-on-year.
Of the 101,673 beneficiaries screened in 2021, 58.4 per cent were females within the age range of 60 to 69 years old (33.1 per cent). By ethnicity, the majority screened were Malays at 64.7 per cent.
By state, Perak had the highest number of screenings at 14.6 per cent of its population, followed by Kedah (13 per cent) and Kelantan (12.4 per cent). A total of RM9,453,628 was spent on health screenings in 2021, according to ProtectHealth’s annual report.
Beneficiaries are required to attend two clinic sessions. The first visit (HS1) involves lab sample collection and documentation from history taking, physical examination, mental state assessment using a validated assessment tool, as well as blood and urine examination.
The second visit (HS2) is a follow-up visit to review the lab results, undergo consultation and referral if there is an indication that the beneficiaries require further management.
The HS trend over the past three years from April 2019 until December 2021 show a steep decline when the Movement Control Order (MCO) was introduced in March 2020, resulting in a drop from a peak of 49,422 monthly health screenings in December 2019 to an all-time low of 3,471 monthly health screenings in April 2020.
The monthly figure has since picked up to 19,488 screenings in July 2020, though the overall trend has slowed to an average of 8,472 monthly screenings in 2021.
This health screening is required before beneficiaries are eligible for other health benefits offered under Peka B40 including aid to purchase medical equipment of up to RM20,000, cancer treatment completion incentive of RM1,000, and a maximum transport incentive of RM500 in Peninsular Malaysia and RM1,000 in Sabah/ Sarawak/ Labuan.
Health screenings can be conducted at health clinics, MOH hospitals, or by private GPs.
In 2021, the number of GPs registered under Peka B40 had increased 26.7 per cent to 2,589 GPs from the total number of GPs registered in 2020. The number of participating MOH health clinics and hospitals had also increased to 897 and 145, respectively. To date, the Peka B40 scheme has 181 laboratory partners across Malaysia.
As of December 31, 2021, a total of 30,864 applications for medical equipment aid have been approved consisting of surgical and non-surgical equipment.
Intraocular lens – a lens implanted in the eye as part of a treatment for cataracts or myopia (nearsightedness) – recorded the highest number of applications at 41.7 per cent of total applications, followed by hearing aid (22.5 per cent) and cardiac stents (used to treat narrowed or blocked coronary arteries) at 6.7 per cent.
For Peka B40’s cancer treatment completion incentive, a total of 4,721 applications had been approved, as of December 31, 2021. The three most common types of cancer detected in 2021 were breast cancer at 28.7 per cent, followed by gastric cancer (20.8 per cent) and ear, nose and throat (ENT) cancer (13.3 per cent).
For its transport incentive, a total of 20,725 applications were received, as of December 31, 2021, of which 20,271 were approved.