The Ministry of Health has confirmed on 14 November that there would be a rise in medical charges at first and second class government hospitals.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr. S. Subramaniam said the fees will take effect 1 January 2017, although the revised rates have yet to be confirmed. An estimated 50% increase on all medical and ward charges is predicted.

He stressed that the move is befitting as the costs of operations for hospitals have increased. The last time hospital charges were increased was in 1982.

"Although the increase is relatively minimal, there are still subsidies allocated for first and second class patients," he said.

Charging the M40 to obtain additional medicines for the B40

The Ministry's sole responsibility is to ensure that the lower income group who opt for public services are ensured of their welfare, he added.

"We won't digress from that principle," he said.

A total of two million patients seek treatment at government hospitals and 32,000 are first and second class patients who might opt to be treated at private hospitals. According to Dr. S. Subramaniam, only 1.6% of the population would be affected.

"That is why the charges are to be increased and subsidies trimmed. I hope the revenue can be used to obtain additional medicine for third class patients," he added.

Critics slam the rise in hospital charges

However, DAP lawmaker Charles Santiago has said that he was concerned over the increasing trend of costs being transferred from the government to the patients in the public health sector.

"The debt crisis Putrajaya is facing is taking its toll on the people. The budget for medicines has already been reduced and now this," he said.

"Healthcare is a core responsibility of any government. What we are seeing now is the government unloading its healthcare responsibilities onto the people," he added.

He emphasised that majority of the public who depended on government healthcare were largely those from the Bottom 40 (B40), who were already struggling to make ends meet.

Calling for budget cuts in the Defence and Prime Minister's Department again

"What the government should do instead is cut its defence spending. We should only be spending on assets necessary for securing high-risk areas, such as Sabah's east coast," he said.

The Klang MP once again called to cut down the budget allocation for the Prime Minister's Department as he did a month ago, urging the government to protect and ensure affordable healthcare for all Malaysians.

For next year's budget, the Defence Ministry received an allocation of RM15.1 billion and the Prime Minister's Department received an allocation of RM15.9 billion of the total RM262.8 billion. The Health Ministry only received RM25 billion.

Currently, 75% of Malaysians seek treatment from public hospitals, while only 25% can afford visits to private practices. MIMS

Read more:
Is Malaysia spending enough to prevent a healthcare catastrophe in 20 years?
Selangor state introduces “Skim Peduli Sihat” for bottom 40% income residents
Infographic: Breaking down Budget 2017 spending for Malaysia’s healthcare system
Health Ministry responds to concerns over closing of laboratory tests in Malaysia due to lack of funds