KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 23 – Yeo Bee Yin is urging the Ministry of Health (MOH) to improve transparency and reduce long waiting times by publicly publishing the average wait times for every government hospital on a dedicated website.
The Puchong MP gave direct comments on the need for a “performance-based” approach to tackle overcrowding in emergency departments, stating that the government must take concrete action to address this issue.
Additionally, Yeo expressed doubts about the accuracy of the MOH’s reported average waiting time of four to six hours, stating that it does not reflect the real situation on the ground.
“I’m drawn to the figures provided by the health minister on how the average waiting time at emergency departments is said to be between four and six hours.
“How did you obtain this figure and do you have figures for individual hospitals so that we know exactly which hospitals have issues with their emergency departments, because it (the waiting time figure) does not reflect the reality on the ground,” Yeo said.
During Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa’s winding-up speech on the royal address in Parliament today, Yeo interjected to make her point.
“I want to say this yeah, we can talk at length about ‘steps’ [that we are taking] but we are not showing or delivering results. So, may I suggest, if the MOH can display the average waiting times for every government hospital, each week, so that we know which hospital.
“I suggest that we display it on a website so that everyone can see it. We must be performance-based.”
According to Dr Zaliha, the average waiting time is determined through an internal audit and varies between hospitals. “I will ask the officers to do a more detailed review on this (waiting times) and we will provide a written response on this.”
During her speech, Dr Zaliha reiterated the seven measures that the MOH will implement to alleviate overcrowding in public hospital emergency departments.
She said the ministry is also considering hospital clusters with private specialist clinics and hospitals to improve waiting times. Currently, there are clusters among government hospitals and public health clinics (klinik kesihatan) within the same geographical setting.
“Perhaps another cluster that we can consider is a cluster that also includes private specialist clinics. Because private specialist clinics also have, for example, equipment that is much better than what we have in public health facilities, so we can also cluster these hospitals that are close to other facilities.
“This is an initiative that we will explore and see to improve our efforts to reduce waiting time,” Dr Zaliha said in response to an interjection by Ledang MP Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh who suggested having hospital clusters.
Apart from public-private partnerships, Ipoh Timor MP Howard Lee Chuan How proposed an outright acquisition of nearby hospitals to ease congestion at existing facilities.
“In Ipoh, there is one facility that is very close (to Raja Permaisuri Bainun Hospital or HRPB) which recently changed hands, or perhaps, we can use a federal building which is right next to HRPB that is not being used, that can be retrofitted – is this a strategy that is feasible, can be considered, and will be considered to alleviate the overcrowding at HRPB?”
Although she applauded the suggestion, Dr Zaliha said there is a need to do a study on the suitability of the proposal. “If it is suitable, I don’t think there is a problem to cluster these hospitals or facilities together.”
CodeBlue reported in December that critically ill patients, including ventilated cases, are stranded for up to six days in the Red Zone of HRPB’s emergency room due to insufficient critical care beds and staff.
HRPB doctors said the situation this year has worsened from pre-pandemic days, when patients waited one-and-a-half days at the most back then for beds in a ward.