KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 2 — For Budget 2021, the Malaysian Health Coalition (MHC) wants the government to commit at least 4 per cent of the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to its public healthcare system, saying it is needed to make up for years of under-spending.
The coalition of 49 organisations and 19 individuals representing health professionals in Malaysia noted that the current budget for public healthcare is only between 2 and 2.5 per cent of the GDP.
“Covid-19 has been a jolt to our health system, highlighting both its strengths and weaknesses.
“Budget 2021 must tackle these weaknesses, support our healthcare professionals on the frontline, and carve out a clear plan for improving the health of all Malaysians,” MHC said in a statement.
The coalition also recommended several measures in line with global health strategies for achieving universal health coverage, addressing health emergencies and promoting healthier populations that Budget 2021 should focus on.
The first is to heavily invest in the public healthcare system under Budget 2021, focusing on the development of human capital, infrastructure building and pandemic preparedness.
“The government must appropriately recognise the frontline and support healthcare workers who have served the country during the pandemic by providing them with more permanent posts and appropriate allowances and incentives.
“Additional funds must be allocated to the public health system, especially for pandemic
response and preparedness.
“This pandemic has demonstrated the importance of disease surveillance, contact tracing and public health preventive measures. These areas require additional investment to strengthen coordination and improve use of analytics,” it said, adding this also included vaccine purchases, personal protective equipment and consumables.
As for infrastructure building, MHC said this must be prioritised especially in rural areas and Sabah and Sarawak, where it said the needs are greatest following the impact of Covid-19.
It also called for more resources to be provided for comprehensive public health and preventive care to help Malaysians lead healthier lives.
“The results of the recent National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) 2019 should inspire urgent and innovative policies for preventive care such as sin taxes for soft drinks and sugar, subsidising nutritious meals for school-going children from low-income households and encouraging exercise,” they said.
It also said the government must provide more mental health services and access to care for frontliners, children who have undergone prolonged isolation, and adults who have experienced job loss, on top of those already at risk of mental health issues.
While not falling under the purview of the Health Ministry, the group also urged the government to account for social and environmental determinants of health, such as water pollution, air pollution and climate change.
“The upcoming budget must make bold moves such as creating tax incentives for solar-generated electricity, sustainable waste management solutions and enforcement against pollution,” they said.
Lastly, MHC implored the government to invest in durable policies to strengthen the health system and governance including the setting up an independent commission for health reforms.
“The government must invest in mechanisms and human resources needed to provide oversight and accountability for the vastly increased spending of the Health Ministry to eliminate corruption, wastage, fraud, leakages and abuse,” it said.