“Harapan” for the future in healthcare

At the time of writing, the Health Minister has not yet been appointed. So what can the healthcare sector look forward to? Here’s a summary and our take based on the government’s manifesto.

Increase Budget for MOH

Increase in financial allocation for the Ministry of Health. This increased in funding is to improve the quality of the public healthcare services. There is a recognition that despite a good coverage of healthcare services for Malaysia, many of these hospitals are overcrowded and thus lowers the quality of services.

As healthcare performance indexes move towards outcome based  measures, the strategies of yesteryears are no longer effective or even relevant.

Better public-private co-operation

Private – public co-operation to be enhanced. The Skim Peduli Sihat has been mooted to provide poor families especially those in B40, with a median household income of RM3000, with a financial allocation of RM500/year. This is to allow them access to private health clinics as to decongest busy government clinics.

Charities and NGOs

Many charitable bodies , NGOs and patient support groups are struggling with finance. Seeking donations often takes up the bulk of the work of many of these organisations. They play an important role in ensuring patients get the emotional and social support especially in rare or uncommon diseases. The government’s plan to help these groups is commendable.

Focus on wellness and non-communicable diseases

Non-communicable diseases like heart disease and cancer, continues to burden many populations including Malaysia. Ischaemic heart disease tops the cause of death in Malaysia in 2016. (Dept of Statistics) Promoting prevention and early detection will be a focus.

Mental Health

This has been a field often ignored.  Their plans to increase human resource and convince insurers to cover these conditions, is ambitious. However, it is time that mental health be accorded the recognition it needs so that healthcare services can better manage individuals with mental health issues.

Terminally Ill

The plan to provide incentives to build more palliative care centers in the country, highlights the need to care for the dying. There is a current shortage of trained palliative care centres. The burden it places on families of patients is immense, often making the last days for these patients unbearably painful.

Elderly care

Being an increasingly aging population, resources must be poured into ensuring that Malaysia is elderly friendly. A greater allocation is planned for public hospitals to afford better care to the elderly.

Housemanship

Looking at the doctor : population ratio alone is no longer the benchmark of a good healthcare system. Our current issues with housemanship positions was predicted as the number of medical schools mushroomed. So a review of this is much needed. Maintaining a healthy and appropriate number of seats for medicine is important to maintain the quality of training and to ease the current strain on training positions. Looking at the quality of recognised medical schools is also key. Perhaps it is time to relook at the large number of recognised universities, foreign and local, to ensure that they meet a high standard of medical education.

There is much to do for the incoming Health Minister!

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