KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 18 – The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) today urged the next elected government to increase the allocation for public health care, as promised by all three major political coalitions.
Pakatan Harapan (PH), Barisan Nasional (BN), and Perikatan Nasional (PN) have all pledged in their election manifestos to raise public health care expenditure to 5 per cent of Malaysia’s gross domestic product (GDP); both PH and BN have promised to do so within five years.
“Will the new government be bold enough and committed to health care reforms with an increase in its health budget to 5 per cent of the nation’s GDP for 2023?” MMA president Dr Muruga Raj Rajathurai said in a statement today, on the eve of polling day for the 15th general election.
“Importantly, there must be transparency in the management of health care allocations.”
The 2023 budget tabled by Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s government – which was not passed before the dissolution of Parliament – saw an increase in the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) allocation by 11.5 per cent to RM36.1 billion – equivalent to about 2 per cent of the GDP, the same share as in 2022.
The GE15 manifestos by PH and PN have also pledged to set up a health service commission to manage the human resources of government doctors and other health care staff in the public sector.
PH’s Ipoh Timor candidate Howard Lee Chuan How recently said that PH will gradually phase the contract system for medical officers away to tenure, or from “contract for service” to “contract of service”, to improve job security for doctors.
MMA noted that promises to resolve contract doctors’ issues would require political will, as it would involve addressing the intake of medical students, medical schools, the houseman training programme, contract system, long-term human resource planning and budgeting, as well as the creation of permanent posts.
“The new health minister should aim to resolve the issue within the first 90 days in office,” Dr Muruga said.
“Addressing the contract doctor issue needs to be given urgency because as many as 3,000 medical graduates (new doctors) will enter the public health care system each year. There are currently only 1,500 permanent positions given to contract doctors each year.”
The new health minister, MMA added, will need to review the planning of human resources in the public health care system and creation of posts, while taking into account the number of years needed to train doctors and specialists.
Dr Muruga pointed out that manpower shortages in the public health care system have led to overcrowding and long waiting times in government health care facilities.
“The Malaysian Medical Association reminds all political coalitions contesting in GE15 that they have a duty and responsibility to deliver on promises made in their manifestos and during their campaigning if they are voted in as the new government.
“We hope these promises will not be conveniently forgotten once the coalition elected is given the power.”