The sudden postponement of the scheme to privatise the National Heart Institute (IJN) suggests that the government under-estimated the depth of public opposition to the move.
The postponement comes just a day after Najib revealed that the green light had been given to Sime Darby to acquire a majority stake.
The Umno elite appear to be out of touch not only with the masses but also with their own BN component parties such as the MCA, which is opposing the privatisation. Or were they just testing the waters (to gauge public reaction), as some of you suggest?
To me, the real heroes are the 33 IJN specialists (out of a total of 35) who stood up to oppose the move. Their stand is all the more commendable as chances are they would have stood to gain in terms of a more lucrative pay package. It is great to know there are public-spirited specialists in Malaysia, for whom money is not everything – something which the corporate predators find hard to understand.
So far, no real credible rationale has been given for wanting to hand over IJN to Sime Darby on a silver platter. If the government lacks funds for IJN, how will it help if Sime Darby takes over? (Amazing the government has plenty of funds to send an angkasawan into space and think of buying Eurocopters.)
Sime Darby is not going to pump in money into IJN for nothing. To recover their investment cost, eventually they will have to raise patients’ fees or focus on “medical tourism” – at the expense of the many poor Malaysians who need proper and affordable health care.
This is what Sime Darby has in mind for IJN (from The Edge):
Ahmad Zubir cited IJN’s brand and reputation, the institute’s full-paying patients, the synergies, vast opportunities in the sector, and the group’s overall healthcare plan, including the lucrative medical tourism segment, as the commercial reasons for the proposed acquisition.
“There is demand from overseas,” he said, adding that he did not believe medical tourism contributed significantly to IJN’s business now. He said IJN would be part of an aggressive plan that would see Sime Darby Healthcare and IJN widen their reach in the domestic and regional markets for the brands and their staff.
This is the same Sime Darby that pulled out from financing the Bakun undersea cables. Why couldn’t it raise financing and pump in money there (not that the Bakun undersea cables make economic sense) when the government needed it to? Why does it prefer IJN? Now that commodity prices have slumped, perhaps it is seeking a “safe haven” to invest in. What safer haven then controlling the potentially lucrative “market” for coronary health care, the company must have thought. No fear of falling demand there – as people will be forced to cough up if their lives are at stake.
Najib says the postponement of the deal has nothing to do with the by-election in Kuala Terengganu. Right, sure. Had the deal not been postponed, this issue alone could have been explosive and caused the BN all sorts of problems in the by-election campaign. The opposition would have gone to town with it and torn the BN campaign to shreds – and rightly so.
It is interesting to see the criticism by certain Pakatan leaders of the IJN privatisation.
On the one hand, the Pakatan leaders are opposing the IJN privatisation because it will undermine the public health care system and hurt the lower-income group.
On the other, the Pakatan-ruled states are themselves promoting medical tourism – which lures experienced doctors and specialists away from the general hospitals, including those in rural areas and smaller towns, and undermines the public health care system. (That leaves our general hospitals, which treat the vast majority of Malaysian patients, desperately short of specialists, experienced doctors and skilled personnel.) But then, isn’t this the same sort of medical tourism which Sime Darby envisages for IJN?
So it’s a bit rich for the Pakatan MPs to criticise the IJN privatisation on the one hand while actively promoting medical tourism on the other!