Have you heard of Aneurin Bevan?

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If you haven’t, it is time you got acquainted with the man: Aneurin Bevan was the Minister of Health in post-war Britain who played a key role in setting up the National Health Service.

Aneurin Bevan
Aneurin Bevan - Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

It was Bevan who uttered these immortal words: “The collective principle asserts that… no society can legitimately call itself civilised if a sick person is denied medical aid because of lack of means.”

Which means health care is not a commodity but a basic right that should be made available and accessible to all. It also means we need a top-class public health care system with adequate funding. That was what the speakers at a Sembang-Sembang talk this afternoon, Dr Jeyakumar and Dr Jayabalan, stressed.

Many among the audience at the Caring Society Complex in Penang were moved when they heard a woman, Roszita, describing how she lost her husband, Ahmad Nazri, 49, a heart patient, because the couple were unable to raise RM19,000 in time to buy three stents that were needed to deal with blockages.

Since the privatisation of the hospital’s pharmaceutical services, patients have had to buy such things on their own before surgery can be performed.

In Ahmad’s case, he did have the money – but it was tied up with the EPF, which was then apparently involved in a ridiculous ding-dong with the Penang GH over a guarantee of payment letter. By the time, the EPF finally issued the guarantee letter it was too late for Ahmad, who passed away on 19 January 2010. He leaves behind Roszita and five children.

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As Ahmad noted just a month earlier: “Tak ada wang pun mati, ada wang di EPF pun mati. Ini adalah wang sendiri bukan nak minta wang EPF!” (Full story here.)

We can see the Health Ministry and other “health care industry” players rushing to turn health care into a commodity and trying to capitalise on so-called “medical tourism”. Hello, health care is a basic human right! What happened to rakyat didahulukan? How many more Ahmad Nazris are out there? I remember my plumber too succumbed to heart failure in very much similar circumstances a couple of years ago.

Steeped in its neo-liberal mindset, the Health Ministry now plans to extend a ‘Full Paying Patients’ pilot scheme to even more hospitals on the quiet. Basically, under this scheme, patients in general hospitals can now jump the queue to see specialists if they have the money. Apparently, the specialists are happy with the scheme (because they make more money, perhaps up to RM20,000 more a month) while patients – the ones with the money, that is – are pleased they can see the specialists more quickly.

But what about those patients without the money? No money, no talk.

What a ‘caring’ society. People First, Performance Now? More like Money First, Surgery Later.

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Phua Kai Lit
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Phua Kai Lit

Dear Fong There is no health system without problems. From comparative data, we know that Britain’s NHS (actually not one but a number e.g. the NHS of England, the NHS of Scotland etc)is one of the most cost-effective of the “developed” nations in terms of percentage of GNP. The most heavily market-oriented (the USA) costs the most but yet an estimated 40 million of the citizens are uninsured. In the English NHS, the GPs contract with the NHS and are paid on a “capitation” basis, i.e. depending on the number of people on their list. The hospital-based specialists are paid… Read more »

Fong
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Fong

I heard the cost of Britain’s National Health Service is unsustainable. They are on the verge of bankruptcy. Is this true?

Complete Government control is not the most efficient system. There must be some degree of free market and entrepreneurial competition to ensure efficiency and sustainability from a financial perspective.

Thinesh
Guest
Thinesh

Im a little confused…what is wrong with people who are richer being able to pay for faster treatment? There is a shortage of resources in every public system, and it is their basic right to be able to pay and get faster access to a specialist. What should be of concern is not this, but how long a person of low income should have to wait before being seen. It may not be immediate, but it must be fast enough for the patient’s own good. Surely that is enough? Also the quality of care/facilities/expertise should be no different for different… Read more »

Phua Kai Lit
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Phua Kai Lit

Dear Anil Here is something I wrote for the MInistry of Health: SAFEGUARDING ACCESS TO MEDICAL SERVICES (SECONDARY AND TERTIARY CARE) FOR MALAYSIAN CITIZENS WHILST PROMOTING HEALTH TOURISM The Government of Malaysia has decided to promote health tourism in order to move the economy up the value chain and spur economic growth. Although this policy will contribute to an increase in the Gross National Product, there are certain negative effects that can be anticipated and which should be pointed out clearly. This will enable the Government and the Ministry of Health to take action in order to safeguard access to… Read more »

Iron
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Iron

Anil,

There have been too many “errors” on your blog lately.

Just minutes ago I got the “database error” thing when trying to access your blog.

Ganesh
Guest
Ganesh

Doctors are so lowly paid in the government service and they are leaving in numbers. Not just out of the government service but out of the country. Doctors are still earning RM2000 and RM3000. I know of a doctor who left for Australia and he now earns AUD$20,000 a month. Before that, he was struggling to make ends meet when he was in Malaysia. Everyday, he used to eat chap fan because his take home pay was pathetic. That also, he just eat only one meat and one vege to keep his chap fun cost down. All boils down to… Read more »

concerned
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concerned

Were you there at the forum, Anil?

If you were not, how did you get the information?

If you were, how come you did not write more?

I hope you will respond to this in your website.

Thank you for your honesty.

Dalbinder Singh Gill
Guest
Dalbinder Singh Gill

I would forward all the comments here to the Prime Minister’s Office. First time I see so many knowledgeable comments on a posting by Anil. If we continue to offer opinions like that apart from attacking one another, it would be a great way to encourage our Health Minister to push for reforms.

Regards,
Deputy Chief,
Public Services Bureau,
Pemuda Gerakan Penang.

Yang
Guest
Yang

This idiot PM Najib come out out and deceived all of you with the clinic in town and shopping complex that has NO DOCTOR.

IS THIS NOT A LIES AND DECEITS TO DECEIVE THE PEOPLE IN THE FIRST PLACE. AND THEN COME OUT WITH A FULL PAYING SCHEME.

LET US ALL KICK HIM & UMNO (OUT) IN THE NEXT GE

LBJ
Guest
LBJ

“The collective principle asserts that… no society can legitimately call itself civilised if a sick person is denied medical aid because of lack of means.”

The key word is civilised. In this context, as well as othe context, Malaysia is not civilised. We may have the trappings of one, but we are not civilised.

Motorist
Guest
Motorist

Even the UK NHS is now in shambles. Administrators have more say than doctors. Budget comes before patients. The spirit of NHS is all but forgotten. Same here. The spirit of basic medical care for all citizens is now just a meaningless slogan. Illegals now make full use of our medical facilities without paying a cent (by running away). Our poor citizens are made to pay first before treatment. Doctors are overworked & unappreciated. No wonder so many dont want to come back to serve or if serving, quickly leave for private practice. Leakages & corruption is endemic throughout the… Read more »

Dalbinder Singh Gill
Guest
Dalbinder Singh Gill

Even Dr. Jeyakumar worked in GH, his dad also did at once. I am sure they would say, the Healthcare Mechanism in place is good but its delivery needs a push.

Bigjoe
Guest
Bigjoe

What is even worst is that Malaysian health in the first place is not being address. We have the dubious distinction of being the fatest Asian nation – bigger than much more developed countries like Japan, Korea, HK, Taiwan and Singapore. We have also have one of the highest rate of diabetes, heart diseases. How can a middling country like us worst off than developed countries? .

casper
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casper

Yes, we have a problem with health care and the provision of it. Currently, the Ministry has problems retaining the best ‘talent’ ie specialist and this problem is escalated with the disparity in wages for those in private practice and govt service. And hence, the situation that arises – those that can afford ‘better’ care as oppose to the lay person in general admission, Class C ward. Personally, I know of an Indian chap(MD) operating out of University Hospital, who does ‘consultancy’ work in between his ‘working’ hours. Here we have a specialist in a quasi private/govt practice role that… Read more »

Dalbinder Singh Gill
Guest
Dalbinder Singh Gill

The forum people should have also brought success stories to its forum. Now even food and cleanliness in GH is improved a lot.

Dalbinder Singh Gill
Guest
Dalbinder Singh Gill

I see you as being swayed by this 1 case. Don’t be judgemental Anil. There may be a problem in the delivery system but not our Government Healthcare System. My dad goes to GH for his health issues and has high regards of GH. This week, someone was admitted in GH. Alongside, i met and spoke to many patients and all were in high regards of GH. A council labourer whose wife needs a pacemaker is only paying RM500 for the RM14000 pacemaker, aid from the Welfare Department. I was so happy for him. Another similar case, free. So, your… Read more »

Dalbinder Singh Gill
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Dalbinder Singh Gill

Doctors in GH are also not millionaires. It is wrong to always pinpoint at them. They are trying, services are improving.

dav
Guest
dav

cant wait for the next election.its about time the people need to do something for the future of their children.

karma
Guest
karma

1Pakatan will show the way to administer the country. The people want health service to be for the poor. If doctors are not happy, they can go private.We are producing 3500 doctors a year now. Why worry? If money is what they look for, they can set up their own clinics. The government should not be cowed by doctors leaving and start to privatise hospitals. This is the silliest thing to do. BN will pay for this comes the next general election.

Jonathan
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Jonathan

You need a non doctor, schooled in human resources, health administration and law to come out with a workable plan that can benefit all Malaysians. The current nut running the MOH is a DG who is a supposedly a liver specialist. Now what happens when you put a liver specialist to run the Health Ministry. Isnt this a recipe for disaster. Please go to the US, Canada or the hospitals that Bevan first initialized in the UK. They are all run by professionals. Usually accountants like Hassan Merican of Petronas. If you have someone like Hassan Merican as DG of… Read more »

Fi-sha
Guest

Dear Sir

How sick is this country and its people…

Ganesh
Guest
Ganesh

Besides the potential benefits from the alleged discovery of the biggest oil field in the world, Malaysia should set up a sort of National Insurance like that practiced in the UK and Australia. Every working individual contributes, say, abt 5% of their pay to the National Insurance. This can then furnish everyone with free healthcare. Obviously, it works like an insurance, whereby, the national insurance fund would never be depleted as not every individual will seek a claim of healthcare. Simple things like this, nobody in the government can think of. But we know how to make the longest ketupat,… Read more »

cclee
Guest
cclee

Please watch “Sicko”, a documentary by Michael Moore on the US health care system and comparing them with other countries like Canada, UK, France & even Cuba.

aca
Guest
aca

sorry mate,

the country needs the submarine that cant dive more. oh, they need to pay RM500m commission and RM600m mnaintenance contract in tow. these are the priorties. oh, there’s the need for new helicopters.
Target Resources is also hungry for more superlative contracts else it will starve.
So, the Ahmads can wait.

radin kamal
Guest
radin kamal

Thank you Anil for enlightening us (those who could not make it) on the proceedings of the forum.Roszita’s account of the sad plight of her husband was testimony of one of the shortcomings in our health care system.As highlighted by both the speakers we do have very good facilities in both the public and private hospitals. Unfortunately the service in the public hospitals is a far cry from what should be the norm,one reason being the perennial shortage of doctors and specialists ever since the 1970s. To beat the long wait for urgent treatment for critical illnesses we very often… Read more »

Cina Bukit
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Cina Bukit

Most malaysians (have) feudalistic mind that is why we still have UMNO ruling us for more than 52 years.