Following the earlier announcement by the Ministry of Health (MOH) of the government’s decision to increase charges for patients who seek treatment in first and second class wards of government hospitals by January 2017, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr. S Subramaniam has reassured that patients from third-class wards who are admitted in second class wards of government hospitals due to insufficient beds will not be charged the higher rates.

Although the percentage of the new rates have yet to be decided, "I promise that the government is indeed very committed to ensure the lower income bracket will receive quality (health) services at a reasonable price," he said.

Increased charges will not burden patients, says Health DG

Just recently, the Health Ministry reassured citizens that patient fees at public healthcare facilities will not see an increment, following speculation on social media that treatment fees will no longer be subsidised following the implementation of the Full Paying Patient (FPP) services.

However, the ministry’s director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham explained that the new fees will not burden patients, as patients warded in first and second class wards can either afford the cost, have insurance, or are provided with guarantee letters from their employers.

“Presently, the charges for first class ward are very low and this is without the cost involved during treatment,” he also said.

“For example, the current charge for first class ward is between RM30 and RM80 a day compared to private hospitals which charge between RM100 and RM400 a day,” Noor Hisham said, adding that costs for laboratory tests, checks and operations for patients in first class wards were comparatively much lower than that in private hospitals.

Another example, as Noor Hisham illustrated, was that maternity treatment would only cost RM300 at first class wards in the public sector, as opposed to RM 3,000 in private hospitals. Should the maternity treatment require the use of instruments such as forceps and vacuum, or involve a breech procedure or caesarian operation, the costs in first class wards of public hospitals and private hospitals would fall between RM400 and RM800, and RM4,000 and RM 15,000 respectively.

The government has exempted senior citizens, citizens with disabilities, financial aid recipients, students, organ and blood donors from outpatient charges, added Noor Hisham, explaining that senior citizens were also given a 50% charge reduction if warded in hospital with a maximum bill of only RM250.

The maximum charge for patients in third class wards was only RM500, he also said, adding that “Those who cannot afford to pay may also be given exemption.”

More hospital beds to accommodate patients

According to Noor Hisham, there are limited beds, with only 2,271 beds in first class wards and 3,251 beds in second class wards out of the total 40,748 beds that are available in public hospitals nationwide.

“As such, those who choose first class are those who can afford it. The increase in charges for first and second class wards is very minimal,” he said.

However, Subramaniam has said that if necessary, the Ministry will look into adding more beds at all public hospitals and build more hospital blocks to address the limited numbers of available beds in second class wards, adding that such actions would address the growing number of patients each year.

“We are aware that (the number of patients) increase every year in line with the rise of medical costs and with the current economy,” he added. MIMS

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