Saturday, October 24, 2009

NST: Budget 2010 Healthcare: Urban folk to benefit but private doctors worry

Urban folk to benefit but private doctors worry

NST, Saturday 2009/10/24

KUALA LUMPUR: The government's move to expand community clinics, to be known as 1Malaysia Clinics, in urban areas similar to government clinics in rural areas got the thumbs up from the public and health ministry.

Director-General of Health Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said the 1Malaysia Clinics would ensure that the public gets prompt treatment for minor ailments, including wound dressings.

"Although the clinics will be manned by trained paramedics, we will also put in a mechanism for doctors to go on a regular basis to these clinics."

He said the 1Malaysia Clinics would have standard operating procedures to provide not only treatment for minor ailments, but also to handle emergencies and put in place a referral system.

Director-General of Health Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican says the clinics will ensure prompt treatment of minor ailments

Najib, in his 2010 Budget speech yesterday, said these clinics would be opened in rented shop lots at housing areas for the convenience of the community to seek treatment for fever, cough and flu.

He added that these clinics would be manned by medical assistants and would operate daily from 10am to 10pm.

For a start, an allocation of RM10 million would be provided to establish 50 clinics in selected areas.

Dr Ismail also welcomed the move by the government to allocate RM14.8 billion to manage, build and upgrade hospitals and clinics.

"With the hospitals and clinics upgraded, the rakyat can be assured of better services from doctors who will have a better environment to work in," he said.

Construction and upgrading of hospitals for next year would include those in Kluang, Bera, Shah Alam, Alor Gajah and Tampoi.

However, private general practitioners are worried that the setting up of the 1Malaysia Clinics in urban areas might affect their business.

Malaysian Medical Association president Dr David Quek Kwang Leng said it would definitely affect the income of general practitioners who were already hit by the economic recession, and having to compete with pharmacies.

"We are also worried about the task shifting, namely the medical assistants, being designated for non-critical services.

"It may be cost-effective in the short-term but the ministry must look into its implementation in the long term."

He said every year, some 2,500 doctors would be graduating and joining the employment field and they must be placed in remote and urban areas.

"We are not against the setting up of 1Malaysia Clinics in remote and rural areas. But, there are enough clinics to handle patients in urban areas," said Dr Quek.

Furthermore, he added, the association wondered whether the paramedics were trained well enough to handle patients with minor ailments.

Several people, when contacted, said that they welcomed the 1Malaysia Clinics as they no longer have to queue up at the hospital's outpatient clinics and emergency department for minor ailments.

Businessman S. Francis, 61, said the move was timely especially with many facing financial problems due to the economic crisis.

"There are many people who cannot afford to go to private hospitals and clinics to get treatment for minor ailments," he said.

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