FEB 11 — Many have written on this subject. Most are concerned about the implementation, costs, bureaucracy and effectiveness of the 1 Care scheme. Perhaps there is another holistic approach the government can consider.
Best treatment for the rakyat
Even in most developed countries those who did not have medical insurance will have to accept public health care and those who can afford it are treated in private hospitals. This is a reality of life, all citizens accept this. Have we heard anyone complain that he should be treated in a five-star private hospital when he knows well that he cannot afford it? The government cannot lose votes on this score. Malaysian citizens are mature enough to realise this fact —not all men are equal! We have the poor, the middle class and the rich — every society has this social structure.
Malaysia’s public health care is highly rated
Compare with even advanced countries, our public healthcare system is highly rated. The equipment in public hospitals are second to none, even more sophisticated than in private hospitals. But better trained staff are required to operate them.
Sure there are long queues, waiting up to two or three hours is normal. Even at private hospitals, seeking an appointment with a specialist incurs a waiting time of an hour or more. The government should have a solution to the long waiting time due to the huge numbers of patients. Increasing the number of health care staff is a simple and good solution. Have separate queues for senior citizens and the handicapped — these people should have priority. This would ease the “pain” for these people.
Managing increasing costs
No citizen will hold a grudge if medical fees are reasonably increased over two or three years. After all, these fees go back to the government and not to any third party, thus avoiding criticism of cronyism. Citizens can accept this. Perhaps for those above 60 years and the handicapped, medicine and fees can be waived to alleviate their medical costs.
There are huge numbers of non-citizens seeking treatment in public hospitals and this is a burden on healthcare costs. While it is a moral responsibility to treat these people, the government must recognise that citizens must be given priority. Perhaps these non-citizens can be charged on a moderate scale for consultation and medicine, say, 50 per cent subsidy. No country in the world subsidises medical treatment to non-citizens. Not even the US, the UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Singapore, Japan, Korea, etc. So why must the government and the rakyat be burdened by non-citizens. By doing so, public healthcare costs and government subsidy are lessened. This may sound callous, but let us face reality. Citizens must come first!!
With only two per cent of our budget allocated to health care, it must rank low by world standards compared with developed and other developing countries. The government must and should double or triple this amount. Cut from unnecessary and ego-promoting projects! Plug leakages and corruption — billions can be saved and utilised for health care. Do we need 270 units of armoured personnel carriers totalling some RM7.6 billion (and reportedly the cost from Turkey was only RM1.6 billion?) Do we need six littoral patrol vessels at RM1 billion a piece when the US Navy has only two? We can afford health care if we can save from all these.
Unnecessary 1 Care costs
While no specific numbers of staff and costs are available, implementing the 1 Care scheme will incur additional staff and further costs. The civil service is already bloated. What transparency can be expected? Why do we need to “invent” and copy from the UK’s NHS — which incidentally is facing lots of criticisms when the British government wanted to reduce its healthcare coverage.
Politicians must remember this — “privileges” once given out can never be abolished even though there are justifications, even when the government cannot afford it, even when facing bankruptcy. Look at Greece, Spain, Italy —strikes and demonstrations are the order of the day. This brings social and economic unrest.
Shouldn’t we try not to re-invent the wheel. We have a good healthcare system — all it needs are improvements. Something that can be achieved fairly easily and quickly.
* CK Chooi reads The Malaysian Insider.
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication. The Malaysian Insider does not endorse the view unless specified.