In response to concerns that were raised by Parti Socialis Malaysia (PSM) on the quality of healthcare in public hospitals following the expansion of Full Paying Patient (FPP) services, Deputy Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya has reassured that patients who are unable to afford charges under the FPP scheme will still receive treatment in public health facilities.

“The ministry will ensure that specialists in government hospitals treat patients who cannot pay before treating patients who opt for the scheme,” he said.

“Therefore, there is no case of neglect of patients who cannot afford to make the payment because the doctor must give priority to their core duty.”

Hilmi: Patients who cannot afford will still receive treatment

First introduced in 2007, the FPP scheme is currently implemented in Selayang Hospital and Putrajaya Hospital, and is planned for expansion by the Ministry of Health (MOH) to eight more government hospitals in Kota Bharu, Kuala Terengganu, Kuantan, Temerloh, Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur, Klang and Seremban.

Under the scheme, 40% of the full cost paid by the patient is given to the hospital, while the remainder goes to the specialist who provided care for the patient. According to Hilmi, the implementation of the scheme aims to prevent government specialists from shifting over to private hospitals where salaries offered were much higher.

“With this scheme, we provide opportunities for specialists at government hospitals to earn additional income to match the salary in private hospitals,” he explained.

“It is also to address the issue of resignation of specialists in government hospitals as annually nearly 150 specialists resign while only 400 new doctors enter the service,” he also said.

Hilmi also said that specialists in public hospitals will have certain control on the number of paying patients, though the numbers should not exceed half of those who are unable to afford it.

Freezing development of private hospitals not a solution

PSM also urged for the government to freeze development of private hospitals as a solution to discourage specialists from migrating into private healthcare.

“Existing private hospitals can operate,” said PSM treasure Soh Sook Hwa. “However, they should not be allowed to expand.”

The proposal was quickly dismissed by many medical professionals, who agreed that the root cause of specialists leaving the public health sector were due to low salaries.

“In the private sector, the salaries are very lucrative,” said Dr H Krishna Kumar, chairman of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists’ Representative Committee.

“So, if you stopped building private hospitals in Malaysia where there is a demand for them, then qualified specialists would just go overseas in search of better pay,” he posited.

Krishna also added that insufficient numbers of private hospital beds would ultimately force patients who are able to afford private healthcare to turn to government hospitals.

“Then, you will have even more people seeking treatment in public hospitals, which are already overloaded,” he said, further suggesting that the government increase salaries or provide more incentives to retain specialists in public health sector.

Dr John Chew, president of the Malaysian Medical Association also agreed that the proposal put forward by PSM was neither ideal nor fair, as private hospitals were funded by private investors and not by the government.

“Generally speaking, people opt for the healthcare systems they can afford. So, the private health sector actually complements the public health sector,” Chew said.

In order to address the shortage of specialists, he added, more specialists should be trained and more incentives should be offered by the government. MIMS

Read more:
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