Perikatan Pins Hope On Health White Paper For Crucial Reforms

Kuala Langat MP Dr Ahmad Yunus Hairi describes the Health White Paper as a “starting point” for health reform, with bipartisan support, as he cited two key issues that should be addressed: infrastructure and facilities, and the health care workforce.

KUALA LUMPUR, April 7 – Opposition coalition Perikatan Nasional (PN) is placing hope on the Health White Paper to bring about reforms to the country’s health care system.

The federal government is set to table the Health White Paper in Parliament in June that is expected to contain a comprehensive plan to address long-standing issues involving the shortage of medical staff, inadequate health care infrastructure, and insufficient funding.

Kuala Langat MP Dr Ahmad Yunus Hairi, who heads PN’s health committee, described the document as a pivotal “starting point” initiated by former Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin last year.

“I hold on to the White Paper, which is a crucial document because it outlines our direction and plans for how this reform can be carried out,” Dr Ahmad Yunus told CodeBlue in a March 28 interview in Parliament.

“This initiative was started by Khairy Jamaluddin as the minister in charge of this portfolio in the middle of last year. It was an initiative to reform health care services. 

“However, when the election took place, there was no continuity to [the previous] government, and it was unfortunate to see Umno remove Khairy and that he lost in the election.

“But as I mentioned earlier, this is not just about politics. The White Paper initiative was started last year, and its continuity is necessary. The White Paper must be presented – regardless of whether it is almost a year late – the White Paper has to be presented in the middle of this year. 

“This is a starting point for the direction and reform of the health care service that we want to implement in our country. This means that the PN government has started the reform. This reform effort has to be continued.”

PN was part of the previous administration led by Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob.

When asked why the previous government did not work on health care issues – which rose to the surface this year amid rising frustrations in the public health service – Dr Ahmad Yunus pointed to the Covid-19 pandemic.

He also indicated PN’s willingness to work with the government on these issues, saying: “We realise that we need to work together to resolve the weaknesses happening in our country.”  

Khairy had outlined an ambitious agenda in the Health White Paper, which included setting new public health metrics, adopting a preventive health care strategy, and implementing electronic medical records, and getting 10 million Malaysians to be healthy in 10 years. 

He also proposed the introduction of a mechanism to promote transparency in drug pricing as part of efforts to make medicines more affordable.

Khairy’s successor, Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa, has so far said that the upcoming Health White Paper is expected to propose the adoption of a national social health insurance programme, as part of a key strategic priority to make health care financing more sustainable.

Dr Ahmad Yunus, a lawmaker from PAS, expressed his hope that the Health White Paper will focus on two crucial aspects, namely, infrastructure and facilities, and the health care workforce.

“Ultimately, we want to provide the best possible service. Ultimately, we want to tackle the congestion issue (at hospitals and emergency departments), which is why infrastructure safety, permanent positions, and incentives for doctors, are crucial.

“If we can have a Health Service Commission, it will be responsible for looking at how incentives, salaries, and emoluments for these doctors can be given at a fair rate. At least their welfare is taken care of, and we can justify their emoluments as best as possible,” said Dr Ahmad Yunus, who was recently appointed a member of the Parliamentary Special Select Committee (PSSC) on Health. 

The PSSC on Health is chaired by former Health Minister and Kuala Selangor MP Dzulkefly Ahmad.

PN last month called for a royal commission on health care to resolve the worsening crisis in the public health care system.

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