Health services poised for radical overhaul, minister

Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam. — file pic
Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam. — file pic

PETALING JAYA , AUG 17 — In what could prove to be a controversial move, the government is looking to have a mixed source of financing to merge public and private healthcare delivery services.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said this would be done through a single non-profit public third party payer.

He, however, did not elaborate on the plan that was announced during his keynote address during the Apec high level meeting on health and economy in Beijing.

Dr Subramaniam said besides fostering a greater public-private partnership, the government is also drafting a health transformation agenda that took into consideration the country’s challenges and needs.

He said that in the future, the functions of the ministry would be concentrated on stewardship and policy making, governance, public health services, research and training.

“Service delivery will be devolved to enhance responsiveness and flexibility in a more competitive integrated environment,” he said in the speech.

The last time the subject of a healthcare financing scheme surfaced was more than two years ago with the proposed 1Care for 1Malaysia. The criticisms that followed saw a road-show being organised to gather public feedback to draw up a blueprint.

The idea was first mooted more than 30 years ago and there were two attempts previously, with 1Care encompassing three components: transforming service delivery, financing and organisational transformation.

However, as in the past, it was the financing bit that had people riled up although the ministry at the time insisted that nothing was cast in stone.

More recently, the ministry’s director-general Datuk Seri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said under Health Transformation, the concept was to strengthen existing services and integrate the public and private health sectors.

Dr Subramaniam said the ministry was reviewing the treatment fees for foreigners to eventually cover actual costs.

“This may also help shift some workload to private hospitals regarding foreign workers who have employment-based health insurance,” he said.

He said a key focus was to strengthen primary healthcare as the population and current system did not foster the development of family doctors to manage the health needs of the individual over their lifetime.

“Malaysians are more likely to go doctor-hopping and there is an over-focus on curative care,” he said.

“This situation is far less effective to tackle long-term chronic illnesses.”

Dr Subramaniam said in the future, Malaysians would have their own family doctor to manage their health needs from womb to tomb.

He said this was to manage health issues better by having a long-term relationship between the healthcare giver and recipient.