Health Service Commission Won’t Solve Problems, Formation Requires Constitutional Amendment: Zaliha

Dr Zaliha Mustafa says it’s not suitable to form a Health Service Commission in today’s context and that it won’t solve MOH’s problems, noting also that this requires a constitutional amendment. The Health White Paper moots long-term reform over 15 years.

KUALA LUMPUR, June 15 — Dr Zaliha Mustafa today discounted the need for a Health Service Commission to regulate staff in the public health service separately from other civil servants.

The health minister held that the process of setting up a new service commission was convoluted and required amendments to the Federal Constitution with two-thirds parliamentary support.

“The establishment of this commission is not suitable in today’s context. Taking into account the overlap in function with the Public Services Commission (SPA), the establishment of the [new] service commission will not solve the issues faced by the ministry,” Dr Zaliha said when winding up debate on the Health White Paper (HWP) in the Dewan Rakyat today. 

The HWP – which is meant to be a document proposing health care reforms over the long term of 15 years – does not make mention of the establishment of a Health Service Commission. 

The proposal for a Health Service Commission was suggested by Sabak Bernam MP Fasiah Mohd Fakeh, who asked how committed was the Ministry of Health (MOH) in setting up a service commission to improve health services and create a more resilient health system. 

Dr Zaliha referenced Article 144(1) of the Federal Constitution to inform the Dewan Rakyat about the functions of SPA. Article 144(1) states that it is a duty of a commission which is referred by this section to appoint, confirm, confer into permanent or pension status, promote, transfer and to exercise disciplinary control over personnel for services covered by its jurisdiction.

“The formation of a Health Service Commission does not confer the power to create new positions and to devise a retirement system, including setting more competitive emoluments for officers under the said service commission,” she told the House.

Acute staff shortages across public hospitals and health clinics nationwide are attributed to the lack of positions provided by the Public Service Department (JPA) to the Ministry of Health (MOH), leading to long waiting times in public health care facilities.

The HWP did not provide any data on staff shortages in the public health service, nor projections on health human resources that would be needed over 15 years. 

The 59-page document merely suggested conducting studies on the gap between the provision and demand for facilities, equipment, and human resources for health across the public and private sectors. 

“Planning for effective health human resources is necessary to fulfil the health needs of the population,” Dr Zaliha told Parliament. 

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