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STOP Government from killing public health system.

Media statement at The Nationwide simultaneous distribution of leaflets
by Ronnie Liu

(Petaling Jaya, Monday): DAP and other members of the Coalition Against Privatization of Health Systems (Gabungan Membantah Penswastaan Sistem Kesihatan) are very disappointed with the Health Director General's statement (NST 8/1/06) that the Government will allow specialists to see private patients after office hours in Selayang and Putra Jaya Hospitals by March 2006.

Datuk Dr Ismail Merican also said that based on the outcome of a 6-month trial period the same scheme will be extended to all government hospitals with specialists. According to him, the purpose of the scheme is to augment the income of government specialists and keep them in government service.

This same scheme has been started in the University Hospitals - University Malaya, Hospital UKM and others (which come under the Education Ministry) and several reliable sources have said that it has led to a decline of the level of medical teaching as well as neglect of the non-paying patients.

We would like to see a copy of that study made public. Health care is a basic human right and the public have a right to be involved in decisions that can affect their lives! With the current Prime Minister boasting that his government is a transparent government, we are disappointed that the DG can announce an implementation of a major decision without consultation and one which would affect the health system of all Malaysians.

The Coalition has been against the institution of "Limited Private Practice" in government hospitals because that will inevitably lead to the deterioration in the care of the non-paying patients. According to the Secretary of the Coalition Dr Kumar (PSM), at present, only 30% of the specialists in Malaysia are working in Government Hospitals, but they look after 70% of the in-patients.

In addition government specialists are also tasked with teaching the housemen, the trainee specialists, the nurses and other paramedical staff, as well as organizing quality control and system-review exercises. They are already over-worked and are often not able to supervise the young doctors under them closely enough. Allowing private practice after office hours cannot but lead to the greater neglect of the patients in the third class wards!

The DAP concurs with Gabungan Membantah Penswastaan Sistem Kesihatan, that the government should retain more doctors in service by offering better remuneration.

We appreciate that government doctors work hard, and in difficult conditions - we want them to be paid better.

The pay-scale in IJN is much better than that in the Health Ministry, but this is not due to supplementary income derived from private practice after office hours but by a better salary structure.

DAP would like the Ministry of Health to set up a separate Service Commission for Health Care Workers and offer them a better salary structure - something similar to the IJN scale.

The BN government spends only 1.9% of GDP on health care provision, whereas the WHO has advised an outlay of 5% of GDP for developing countries. (UK spends 9.8% of GDP on health!)

An outlay on health is an investment in our people - and as the government itself often says our human resources are the nation's most precious resources!

Dr Kumar also pointed out that the neo-liberal ideologists argue that the government's responsibility to health is not open-ended. According to them, the government is only responsible for ante-natal & maternity care, childhood immunization and control of communicable diseases. Other illnesses are due to irresponsible life-styles - smoking, drinking, lack of exercise, obesity, etc - and there is no reason why the government should provide the best possible treatment for patients with these "diseases of affluence and unhealthy lifestyles".

DAP disagrees to this argument. A comprehensive, high quality health care system is an integral part of the social contract between the working class and the government. Workers in Malaysia work for wages that are far below the amount of wealth that workers' create, but in turn expect that the essential goods and services housing, health, water, education, transport - would be subsidized by the government through tax income from the rich and the corporations.

The BN government is reneging on this social contract - wages are being held down through the massive importation of foreign workers while previously subsidized services are being deliberately run down in an attempt to get people to go and buy these services in the private sector! Or they are being privatized as is the case of water.

It is high time that the rakyat realizes this and mobilizes to prevent the further desecration of the public health care institutions!


* Ronnie Liu Tian Khiew, DAP NGO Bureau Chief

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