Those were the words by Director General of Health Malaysia, Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, on his social media page on 6 October following the recent reports on the lack of funds from the Ministry of Health (MOH), resulting in a temporary cease in laboratory tests in certain hospitals as well as allegations of medicine shortages in public health facilities.
Hilmi: Rise in patient numbers may be due to improved healthcare services
“As the MOH strives to provide excellent health services at reasonable costs with high satisfaction to the Rakyat, surely the demand for the health services at the MOH will also increase,” he stated. “There has been an 8% increase in the number of patient visits...this increase accounts for more than three million additional patient visits to our health clinics,” Noor Hisham added.
Speaking on the increased number of patients seen at government healthcare facilities, deputy health minister Datuk Seri Hilmi Yahaya said, “It could be because the public healthcare service has improved leading to a boost in public confidence. Besides, the prices and costs of medicines have remained unchanged and affordable.”
“This year, we received RM23 billion but bulk of the allocation are for salary while RM1.6 billion for healthcare development which are distributed nationwide,” he explained. I understand that the economy is uncertain at this time but special consideration should be given to the Health Ministry as we are dealing with sickness, illness… it’s about the life and wellbeing of our people,” he stressed.
Meanwhile, Noor Hisham emphasised that, “This greater demand for our services has led to more complex challenges in managing our existing resources.”
Increased budget needed to serve higher number of patients
Following the director-general’s response, the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) has stressed the need for the government to increase expenditure in healthcare, with president Dr John Chew expressing concerns that the Health Ministry’s budget cut is adversely affecting the quality of services and patient care provided in government facilities.
He added that many citizens have resorted to government-provided care due to the rising costs in healthcare, resulting in longer queues and overcrowding in healthcare facilities.
Hilmi also expressed his hopes that the existing allocation for the health ministry will not be reduced in the coming Budge 2017.
“This year, we received RM23 billion but bulk of the allocation are for salary while RM1.6 billion for healthcare development which are distributed nationwide,” he said.
“ I understand that the economy is uncertain at this time but special consideration should be given to the Health Ministry as we are dealing with sickness, illness… it’s about the life and wellbeing of our people,” he added.
Hilmi also said that the ministry required larger fund allocations due to the high costs incurred in purchasing medications and equipment.
Frustration over Ministry’s denial in medicine shortage
Despite allegations by patients and unnamed pharmacists regarding shortage of pharmaceutical drugs in public health facilities, Noor Hisham reassured citizens that: "There is no shortage of medicines or supplements at public hospitals and clinics. What we have done is to supply medicines for a month. This is to reduce wastage.”
Despite his assurance, some citizens are still at unease.
"Little do they (the ministry) understand that not only it is a hassle to go back to the hospital so many times, but time is really wasted and we have to spend more on public transport. It is not easy taking time off from work too," lamented Raymond Ho, a patient from Sungai Buloh who added that a pharmacist informed him of the insufficient supply of medicines.
"Since they reduced my prescription for eye drops from one month to two weeks, I'm forced to reduce my dosage from four drops daily to two drops,” said 68-year old Madam Ooh.
“How is this going to treat my glaucoma? I'm blind in one eye and have to travel by bus to Kuala Lumpur Hospital more frequently now.”
In January, the 2016 Budget revealed that the budget allocated to the MOH was RM269 million less than in 2015.
“To ensure that crucial health services provision are not disrupted, the MOH is evaluating the extent of our financial shortcomings, and optimising and reallocating our limited resources to wherever it is needed the most,” said Noor Hisham.
“The MOH remains committed in providing health services to the Rakyat at all of our health facilities. Let us translate these challenges into opportunities for us to improve the way we do things; for it to be better, more efficient and effective, avoid unnecessary duplication and cut wastage to achieve better outcomes.” MIMS
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