MHC: Healthcare reforms needed, not quick fixes

A paltry increase of 4.3% for the Health Ministry under Budget 2021 would do little help in dealing with the nation’s healthcare issues.

In this regard, the Malaysia Health Coalition (MHC) has voiced frustration that the Government was too focused on COVID-19 instead of seeking a long-term solution to other health issues plaguing Malaysians.

“This increase is insufficient during a great pandemic and the budget didn’t come close to our proposed target of 4% of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP),” MHC said in a media statement.

Last week, Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Abdul Aziz tabled Budget 2021 which is valued at RM322.54 bil at the Dewan Rakyat.

The expansive budget was an addition to the six stimulus packages worth over RM300 bil announced this year to revive Malaysia’s economy and push assistance towards those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Health Ministry received an allocation of RM31.9 bil which a slight increase from last year. However, it was indicated that massive cuts have been made on other health-related matters such as psychiatry, pharmacy and supplies and general medicine.

On that note, MHC said the Government should provide higher allocation to manage non-communicable diseases (NCD), mental health issues and preventive care as well as improving the public health system.

“And the Government did not mention about offering permanent posts for frontline health professionals, who are now under contract,” it said.

MHC also said while the Finance Minister has clarified that the RM4.29 bil of spending will come under Specific Programmes, much of the detail remains hazy, creating confusion to many.

“There is also a large increase in the services & supplies spending under the Development Expenditure category. However, there is no breakdown by medical discipline or service.

“In both cases, the Government must provide a clear breakdown by category, as transparency will prevent inefficiencies, leakages and wastage.

“The Government must also clarify whether the boost in its development expenditure will strengthen the much-needed healthcare access in rural areas, Sabah and Sarawak,” it said.

MHC then urged MPs to rally behind its cause by urging the Government to boost allocation for healthcare services in Malaysia.

“Budget 2021 must look at the big picture involving long-term strategy, rather than a collection of temporary fixes.

“This pandemic is an opportunity to reform our healthcare system and strengthen it for future generations. We also need oversight mechanisms and public-private partnerships,” it added. – Nov 9, 2020

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