A health activist blames Mahathir's healthcare reforms for the dismal state of the country's healthcare system today.
PETALING JAYA: Former premier, Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s, defence of the proposed 1Care healthcare system as a means to counter the rising cost of healthcare has come as no surprise to the Citizens Healthcare Coalition (CHC).
Mahathir had said that the government could no longer support the country’s current healthcare costs alone and that the need for contribution towards healthcare could be valid.
But CHC representative, Dr T Jayabalan, said that Mahathir’s comments were to be expected as he was the “architect of healthcare reforms” in 1983.
“By 1994 the pharmaceutical services were privatised, but with the government being a stakeholder,” he said in a statement.
“With the privatisation came a 15-year monopoly for pharmaceutical supplies to the government health facilities by Pharmaniaga. It was a closed tender and this disallowed competition.”
An online news report had earlier noted that “1Care aims to place private medicine under government control, a step further than Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s sweeping health privatisation upheavals in the 1980s that delivered a hefty windfall to Umno’s partners, including Dr Mahathir’s son Mokhzani.”
Jayabalan stated that privatisation had caused the prices of generics to sky-rocket, subsequently denying the underprivileged and the less fortunate access to medicines.
He added that the privatisation process had also involved co-payment by the patient wherein the patient had to purchase essential drugs and devices that were expensive and not in the inventory.
“A study by researchers from Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) in 2008 on pre and post privatisation prices of drugs showed a price increase of 10.42% from 1995-1996 compared to the pre-privatisation price,” Jayabalan quoted.
“There was also a massive price increase of 64.04% in the prices of drugs from 2001-2003. The study also indicated that drug prices don’t match the inflation rate or the Consumer Price Index (CPI).”
Poor can’t afford IJN
Jayabalan used the National Heart Institute (IJN) as an example, saying that its corporatisation made it the costliest specialists centres in the country where the poor wait for about two years for treatment while the rich are allowed to schedule overnight surgeries.
“This is what privatisation does and we can credit Mahathir for this dismal state of affairs,” he said.
“It is a warped argument to suggest that rising costs of pharmaceuticals has made healthcare unsustainable since the government only spent 2% of its annual gross domestic product (GDP) on healthcare over the last 13 years.”
Jayabalan called the privatisation of healthcare a “great disservice to the people” as up to 70% of Malaysians are dependent on public facilities.
“Healthcare is a public good and should not be made to fit into a market system,” he asserted.
1Care has sparked outrage from industry practitioners and consumer associations who claim that wage-earners would be forced to contribute 10% of their income to a government-run insurance scheme.
The new scheme however is said to provide limited benefits and force the public to fork out more money for basic healthcare.