Saturday, May 05, 2007

Another Viewpoint

On the 30th April, the DG oh Health, Tan Sri Datuk Dr Ismail Merican, wrote in NST that for reasons of  the shortage of tertiary cardiac care in the Malaysia in general and paediatric cardiac surgery in particular, the Government is seriously considering  the possibility of  sending Malaysian patients to India for cardiothoracic surgery.

We are all aware of the long waiting list for paediatric cardiac surgery in the country, but the reasons given by Tan Sri for this, though to some measure, true, may be an oversimplification. We shall leave the discussion on this problem of long waiting lists at public hospitals, to another discussion, at another time. The MOH should take a long and hard look at herself to see why this is so.

I am writing to ask the MOH to abandon the idea of sending patients routinely to India or elsewhere except in very, medically exceptional situations, for paediatric cardiac surgery. There are many private medical centers in Malaysia who do perform paediatric cardiac surgery well, with good results. Perhaps these institutions could be called upon, to help do some government patients, on agreed terms (meaning also agreed fees). I am sure that these private hospitals can be "persuaded" to do these cases for fees comparable to the fees charged in India. One must not think that if India charges RM 10,000 for the surgery, that the foreign exchange loss is RM 10,000. Each patient traveling to India has an average of 2-3 accompanying persons who will need also to fly, eat and sleep in India. With all these secondary charges, the total bill is no longer RM 10,000 but may be closer to RM 15-20,000. I am sure that private hospitals can be "persuaded" to match this cost. Invoking the PHCFS Act, I feel,  should be a last resort when all other gentle persuasions fail. Talk to the private hospitals and their specialist. I am sure some understanding can be reach. Do you not think, Tan Sri, that Malaysians helping Malaysians will be a better choice, then Indians helping Malaysians?

I hope that it is not true, but  reading through the article by Tan Sri (Other options necessary, NST 30th April) one get the feeling that MOH would rather work with foreigners than with their locals in private healthcare. Maybe Tan Sri, it is time for you to try and bridge, if not eradicate this concrete "Private-Public" healthcare divide. Why is our Government so against private healthcare, that they would rather work with foreigners than with our own people?  Is there a hidden agenda? I am sure that the DG knows that private healthcare is an essential part of the healthcare system in Malaysia. Should all the private hospital close (this is purely hypothetical and almost impossible) then public hospitals will have an even greater waiting list. We are an important part of the healthcare delivery in Malaysia. In principle, the DG acknowledges that, but in practice private hospitals in Malaysia are aliens in the eyes of MOH. Why Tan Sri, why?

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