(Petaling Jaya, Tuesday): Health Minister, Datuk Chua Jui Meng should present a White Paper in Parliament when it reconvenes on July 12 on the governmentís plan on the corporatisation of general hospitals and its response to the Citizensí Health Initiative petition on the issue.
Although Chua said last week that the corporatisation of general hospitals would not be implemented by Jan. 1 next year, it is clear that the government had originally wanted to corporatise the hospitals in Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Seremban and Johor Baru as September was to be the deadline for hospital staff in these hospitals to receive their option papers. However, the widespread public protest and opposition, led by government doctors at Ipoh Hospital, and the approach of the general elections, have forced the government to delay but not to abandon the hospital corporatisation plan.
The Malaysian people are entitled to know the full details of the intended hospital corporatisations especially as the privatization of the five hospital support services in 1996 (laundry, hospital equipment and facilities maintenance, cleaning services, and clinical waste disposal) has pushed up their operational costs by four to five times!
As a result, patients increasingly are being asked to purchase their own medical supplies such as surgical plates and screws before treatment can proceed.
Malaysians are rightly concerned as to whether the corporatization of government hospitals will similarly lead to sharply increased costs in healthcare, particularly for the poor, elderly and chronically ill as well as compromise publicly-funded quality medical care to all Malaysians regardless of their socioeconomic standing.
The White Paper on governmentís proposed hospital corporatisation should also address the demands of the Citizensí Health Initiative petition, that the Health Ministry:
· Conduct an impartial cost-benefit analysis of those healthcare
services that have been privatized thus far. These would include the General
Medical Store for drug procurement and the five hospital support
services. Has privatization increased the efficiency of these services?
At what costs? These studies should be done by an agency
that is independent of the corporate bodies who are vying for a stake in
healthcare privatization. The results of these studies should be made available
to the Malaysian public to enable them to make informed decisions.
· Review and report on the corporatization of the Institut Jantung Negara with particular reference to the public subsidy still required by the Institute.
· Inform the Malaysian public of the operational details of the proposed corporatization of hospitals and other healthcare facilities, of the intended Healthcare Financing Scheme, and invite feedback on these proposals.
The Citizensí Health Initiative petition has also called on the Ministry of Education to similarly commission an independent review and report on the corporatization of the University Hospital (UM), in particular its effects on patient care and on the costs of running University Hospital.