Budget 2024 Wish List: Health Care Human Resource Development, Rural Health Services, NCDs — MMA

MMA’s Budget 2024 wish list includes a bigger development budget, health workforce development, rural health, expanding SPM to cover NCDs, digitalisation, and higher taxes on high-sugar food and beverage.

In line with the Health White Paper, the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) looks forward to a health budget reflective of the government’s commitment to health care reforms.

We hope to see an increase more significantly closer to the target of 5 per cent of the nation’s GDP for Budget 2024.

As the bulk of the health budget is to cover operational expenses, MMA hopes to see a higher budget allocated for development.

In the 2023 Budget for Health, only RM4.8 billion out if its RM36.3 billion was allocated for development while the remainder RM31.5 billion was for operational expenses.

Planning and development of the health care workforce should be prioritised in Budget 2024 with the creation of more permanent positions, contract positions, allocations for long overdue promotions as well as training.

This allocation should also include positions created for doctors, nurses, allied health care personnel, medical assistants, and other support staff in public health care.

We hope that following the statement made by the Prime Minister on the government’s plans to raise the salaries of civil servants in Budget 2024, public health care workers’ wages will also be increased substantially.

Promotions and increments in remuneration are important as a motivating factor and as part of efforts to retain the services of health care workers in the system.

Allocations to improve health care infrastructure and services in rural areas need to also be increased. Telehealth services in these areas should also be expanded to improve access to health services.

We hope that a substantial amount will be allocated for public-private initiatives in efforts to decongest the public health care system.

The Madani Medical Scheme (SPM) is a good initiative that should be expanded to include non-communicable diseases (NCD) management by private GP clinics.

The government should leverage the 13,000 private GPs nationwide in these efforts. Involving all key stakeholders from the planning stages must be emphasised for the successful implementation of any public private initiatives.

We hope to also see a substantial amount allocated to support plans towards the digitalisation of health services for both the public and private health care sector.

NCDs have become a national concern. We hope to see allocations to step-up preventative measures with funds to support health education programmes and awareness campaigns for the public — in schools and at the community level.

As among national efforts to prevent cases of obesity and diabetes, taxes on high-sugar food and beverage products should be raised with revenue collected channeled towards the treatment of diseases associated with high sugar intake.

Lastly, the MMA hopes that the government will reveal in Budget 2024, the amount collected in taxes from the sale of vape products.

The PM had stated that half of the taxes from vape nicotine products would be channeled to the Health Ministry. So we hope the PM will disclose how much from these taxes will be channeled into the 2024 health budget.

Dr Azizan Abdul Aziz is the president of the Malaysian Medical Association.

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