KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 19 — The Health Ministry has urged Putrajaya not to reduce its allocations any further ahead of Budget 2017 that will be announced on Friday, warning that further cuts would be detrimental to public healthcare.
Deputy Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahya said any further cuts to the RM23 billion that was allocated to the ministry for this year would make it challenging for it to serve the public.
"We can't afford any budget cut right now. What we have at the moment is just enough.
"We would want an additional budget, but if we don't get it, at least maintain the figure," he was quoted saying yesterday by local daily The Star.
Dr Hilmi pointed out that the ministry was already moving from branded drugs to the cheaper generic medicine to cut costs.
"There are more generic than original drugs that we use, but in terms of cost, our purchase now is 50:50 for each.
"We try to change (more medicines) to generic. That's how we try to save money while at the same time giving the best service to the people," he was also quoted saying.
The Health Ministry was allocated RM23.31 billion in Budget 2015, but this was later reportedly slashed by RM300 million when the government budget was revised, while the RM23 billion allocated for this year's spending was reportedly reduced by nearly RM250 million in this January's revision.
Dr Hilmi also said the Health Ministry had decided to allow private hospitals to increase their medical fees by 25 per cent amid rising costs, with this new optional scheme kicking in since October 15 and restricted only to foreign patients.
Patients may file complaints with the ministry if private hospitals charge beyond the 25 per cent hike approved by the ministry, he said.
In a separate report by local daily Sin Chew Daily, Dr Hilmi was reported saying that he believed the foreigners-only optional fee hike by private hospitals will not affect Malaysia's healthcare tourism industry — which he said has been growing at a rate of 15 per cent annually over the last four years.
Last year saw 850,000 foreigners entering Malaysia for its healthcare, he said.
"Malaysia's medical team offers top facilities and services, while our medical fees are among the cheapest in the world, so many foreigners like to come to our country for medical treatment. Not only that, the hospitals also offer halal food and prayer facilities, this is one of the reasons why our medical industry has become the top selection for Muslims," he was quoted saying by the paper.