In my media statement of 22nd December 2001, I had proposed the establishment of a Special Cabinet Committee to ensure that no single Malaysian will die next year of kidney problems because of inability to afford dialysis treatment.
Chua must be too busy fighting for his own “political dialysis” to give proper thought to the over 1,000 kidney patients dying each year because of the inability to afford dialysis treatment, and it was left to the Deputy Health Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Suleiman Mohamed to give the initial “diplomatic” response that the government was “seriously looking into the plight of kidney patients”, which meant absolutely nothing.
Sulaiman merely trotted out the old story that the government was providing a RM50 subsidy to each patient who underwent dialysis treatment at private centres or government hospitals - failing to address the issue as to what the government is doing to ensure that no kidney patient will die next year because of inability to afford dialysis treatment.
I am glad that Chua has now realised that Suleiman’s response is grossly inadequate to the gravity of the issue, as the death toll of over 1,000 kidney patients every year because of the inability to afford dialysis treatment which will continue to rise with the upward curve in the increase of kidney patients cannot be taken lightly or dismissively.
In his response, Chua said yesterday that in view of the alarming increase in kidney patients yearly, the Government’s counter strategy is to equip every hospital with a dialysis centre, but this would be a gradual process taking about ten years to complete.
Chua said: "Every year there are about 2,300 new patients with kidney failure. Without treatment, many of these patients will die in a year, but if they are treated , their lifespan is prolonged to about 16 years."
As National Kidney Foundation of Malaysia has said that more than half of the over 2,000 people with kidney problems in the country died this year because they could not afford dialysis treatment, this works out to an annual death toll of over 1,000 people.
At this rate, some 6,000 kidney patients who could have lived for another 16 years will die in the five years under the Eighth Malaysia Plan 2001-2005 - or double the death toll of the September 11 terrorist attacks with the crashing of jetliners into the World Trade Centre and Pentagon in New York and Washington.
This makes a complete mockery of the Eighth Malaysia Plan health strategy of “improving accessibility to affordable and quality healthcare” passed by Parliament in May this year - as there is total denial of accessibility as to result in over 1,000 deaths a year!
The first 2002 Cabinet meeting on Wednesday should endorse the policy that no single Malaysian will die in the new year because of inability to afford dialysis treatment to give meaning to the Eighth Malaysia Plan health strategy approved by Parliament in May of “improving accessibility to affordable and quality healthcare” and Chua should present a special position paper to the Cabinet for the immediate implementation of the policy to marshal public-private-NGO sector support.
If more increased government allocations are needed for such a policy, Parliament should be asked to approve them as a supplementary 2002 Budget in its next meeting in March.
Over 1,000 kidney patients dying every year because of inability to afford dialysis treatment must be regarded as a national scandal and outrage in a country which boasts of having the tallest twin towers in the world and the most modern and glittering development monuments comparable with the most advanced countries in the West - as well as a government whose guiding motto includes creating a “caring society”.
Members of Parliament, whether Barisan Nasional, Barisan Alternative or DAP, should pressure the Cabinet and the Health Minister to adopt and implement the policy of ensuring that beginning with the new year, no single kidney patient in Malaysia will die because of inability to afford dialysis treatment to give real meaning to the Eighth Malaysia Plan they adopted in May this year.